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Skinheads Expanding in Number, Committing More Violence, ADL Finds

March 22, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Skinhead youth gangs are continuing to expand their membership, attack members of minority groups and vandalize synagogues, according to a recent survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

“The Skinheads — An Update on ‘Shaved for Battle'” is a follow-up to an ADL report of last October about the racist youths, primarily boys, who shave their heads, wear Nazi insignia and harass and attack members of racial and religious minorities.

Gangs are composed overwhelmingly of teenagers, including children as young as 13 and 14, according to the report.

However, the ADL and others note not all youth who have adopted Skinhead haircut or garb are racist or neo-Nazi, instead wishing only to show defiance of their elders.

The survey details the criminal activities in which the Skinheads have been involved in the past four months, including synagogue vandalism, anti-Semitic graffiti and terrorizing or attacking individuals.

The revised report claims that 20-25 Skinhead groups operate in 12 states, with a combined membership of between 1,000-1,500. The report also indicates inactivity in some places where Skinhead activity was previously reported.


Irwin Suall, director of ADL’s Fact-Finding Department, said that some of the most serious incidents reported of Skinhead violence took place in California.

Other Skinhead violence was reported in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. Arizona, Pennsylvania and Washington were not locales for such violence four months ago.

The Los Angeles area is the site for a variety of such incidents. Skinhead Philip Rowe is in jail there awaiting trial for attempted murder. He is accused of slitting the throat of a young Hispanic woman.

Michael Martin, 18, who leads a group in Los Angeles called “Reich Skins,” is also awaiting trial along with a juvenile gang member on charges of terrorizing an Hispanic family and flashing an automatic pistol at them.

The Reich Skins operate in tandem with the White Aryan Resistance, the white separatist group based in Fallbrook, Calif., formed and led by white supremacist Tom Metzger.

WAR maintains a telephone hotline on which young people across the United States are interviewed about campus demonstrations of “white pride.”

In the Chicago area, Clark Martell, 28-year-old leader of the local gang “Romantic Violence,” and five other Skinheads were arrested January 25 and charged with home invasion, aggravated battery and robbery in connection with an assault on a 20-year-old female gang member who tried to leave the group.

Martell recently told an assembly of white supremacist leaders that his group “stands for war. . . I am a violent person. I love the white race, and if you love something, you’re the most vicious person on earth.”

In Oklahoma City, the slogans “Die, Jews,” “White Race Rules” and “OKC Skins Rule” were scrawled with swastikas on the walls of two synagogues last December.

Charges have been brought against five Skinheads or associates of Skinheads, including juveniles, for malicious harassment.

In Portland, Ore., a group of white youths thought to have been Skinheads terrorized a black woman in her car last November. The woman suffered eye lacerations and her auto was damaged.


Skinheads have recently appeared on television programs, such as the “Morton Downey Jr. Show” in New York and the “Oprah Winfrey Show” on ABC. In each case, the youths behaved uncontrollably.

After her telecast, Winfrey acknowledged that she “should have listened to advice” that she could not control them on the air, according to Leonard Zeskind, research director of the Center for Democratic Renewal, an Atlanta-based group that monitors racist hate movements in America.

At a recent conference here examining prejudice and violence, Zeskind and Suall agreed that Skinhead gangs have the potential to attract disaffected youth, chiefly of the working class, who feel malice toward minorities.

Harold Applebaum, now retired from the American Jewish Committee, has cited historical precedence for the Skinhead philosophy in the Nazi movement in Germany in the 1920s.

Brothers Otto and Hugo Strasser counseled Hitler to develop the socialism aspect of national socialism to appeal to a working-class base.

“A lot of neo-Nazis today have discovered Nazism, and they are consciously trying to work to reach the young, white, working-class people,” Applebaum said recently, adding that the Strassers’ works have been republished.

In the latest ADL report, Suall said it was too early to gauge whether the Skinheads will continue to grow or gradually decline. But he added that ADL is concerned that Skinheads are graduating into the network of adult white supremacist groups.


The problem extends beyond American borders.

Eight Skinheads have been sentenced in East Berlin court to jail terms of up to four years for attacking people with blows and kicks while yelling “Jews out of German churches,” “Jewish pigs” and “Heil Hitler” at a concert at the Church of Zion last October.

The Skinheads seemed to surface suddenly in Europe with the death of Rudolph Hess in August. Within two weeks, three major European news magazines reported in simultaneous issues on the same phenomenon.

American and European Skinheads are united through the medium of punk rock music, much of which originated in Britain. Some punk rock songs have racist lyrics that appear to incite to violence.

The ADL report concluded that community leaders must “develop educational programs geared toward youngsters who may be vulnerable to the appeals of Skinheads. There is a role to be played here by family, church, schools and the music industry” as well as by vigilant law enforcement.

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