Skinheads at Forty

Twenty years after their heyday, the anti-racist Baldies recount the rise and fall of a notorious Twin Cities scene

Determined to keep his composure, Ciaran walked up to them and asked, "What's the problem?"

The answer was a punch in the face. The foursome proceeded to kick him when he was down. Ciaran had just managed to pull one down with him when two campus security guards swarmed in and broke it up.

"I'm lucky those security guards showed up when they did, because I don't know how I would have gotten out of that," he says.

Left: Baldies pose for a City Pages cover in January 1990; right: The crew reunites 18 years later.
Kara LaLomia, Sean Smuda
Left: Baldies pose for a City Pages cover in January 1990; right: The crew reunites 18 years later.
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Nick Vlcek
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See more photos from then and now in the SLIDESHOW with pictures by Sean Smuda, Kara LaLomia and Nick Vlcek. Also watch the AUDIO SLIDESHOW set to Symparip's "Skinhead Moonstomp."

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With that, the war intensified. Beat-downs became a daily occurrence. Members on both sides began brandishing weapons, usually baseball bats and ax handles.

"If I have one regret, it's that we didn't do more to reach out to MOB," says Ciaran. "Things got out of hand."

Other Baldies agree.

"Some of those MOB guys were cool," says Davey. "Our pride got in the way. It turned into a vicious cycle of needless violence."

By '92, the skin scene was dying. Part of it had to do with the MOB war, but the simple fact was that the crew was getting older. Some Baldies were fathers. Some, such as Hawkins, went off to college. Others, like Danny, had joined the military.

In addition, the crew's straight-edge ethos had worn thin. An increasing number of Baldies, particularly fresh cuts, were getting loaded.

"At that time there was a big culture of house parties in south Minneapolis," says Ciaran. "You could show up anywhere and you'd be welcome."

As the booze flowed, so did adrenaline, testosterone, and, all too often, blood.

"Things started getting out of control," says Hawkins. "I'd often leave early, because I could see where things were going. It wasn't fighting for principles anymore. It was just fighting for the sake of fighting."

Other factors, such as illegal drugs, contributed to the scene falling apart. It was no longer about ideology. It was about money. And as the stakes rose, so did the danger level.

"Crack was becoming really prevalent," says Crenshaw. "Things were fizzling out then—now there were guns involved. We wanted no part in that."

THREE YEARS AFTER calling it quits, the Baldies got together for one last mission under the ARA banner.

In the summer of '95, the St. Paul-based neo-Nazi band Bound for Glory, arguably the world's biggest white power band at the time, planned a show in West St. Paul. Worried that their homecoming might incite the wrath of the ARA and what was left of the Baldies, the band arranged a gig at an undisclosed venue—their fans were told where to go upon purchasing tickets.

"We did some digging and eventually found out where they were playing at some old hall," says Ciaran. "So we compiled a list of contacts—a lot of old Baldies and ARA guys—and tried to round up as many as we could."

The goal was to assemble a group of 100. They succeeded in getting 90. The night before the show, the crew papered the neighborhood with flyers.

"Bound for Glory is a band that promotes hatred and racist violence," the flyers warned. "Don't allow them to invade your neighborhood."

The next day, a caravan of anti-racist skins arrived from Uptown.

"You had several hundred activists and agitated community members surrounding the place," says Martin, an ex-Baldie who speaks at a rapid clip. "And inside there were about a dozen guys setting up who were just shitting themselves."

Fearing a full-fledged riot, the police arrived and told the placard-wielding mob they were shutting down the show.

"We weren't sure we could believe them, so we had a neighborhood resident go with the cops inside to confirm that they wouldn't be playing."

Bound for Glory never played another public show in the Twin Cities again.

 

ON AN UNSEASONABLY WARM January day, Hawkins, who, at 38, now works in law enforcement with at-risk offenders, sits in an Uptown Davanni's on Lake Street and picks at his pita wrap apprehensively. A roadmap of colorful tattoos peeks out from under the sleeves of his muscle shirt. His short, graying hair clashes with his youthful sky-blue eyes, which turn thoughtful as he searches for the right words.

"Sometimes I wonder if what we did had the opposite impact of what we wanted to accomplish," he says. "In some respects, we backed some people into a corner and made them get more into white power. It's one of those things I always wonder about: Would East St. Paul have become a hotbed of white supremacy were it not for us?"

Just then, the entrance door swings open. Hawkins looks up and does a double-take. His pensive frown transforms into warm smile and he leaps to his feet to meet the tall newcomer.

"Davey!"

"Hey man, how have you been?" Davey asks, offering a hand.

Comically dissimilar—Hawkins is a short, stocky white dude, while Davey suggests a 'roided out Don Cheadle—they embrace in a bear hug.

"I just got back from church, man," Davey says as he eases into his seat. "Was eating brunch with the family. We're heading off to TwinsFest later on."

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