Skin Deep

Inside the Rocky Mountain Heritage Fest, Colorado's first neo-Nazi music festival.

Leon, a 29-year-old pipefitter and self-proclaimed "Soldier of the Fourth Reich" from West Virginia, was wearing a T-shirt printed with the picture of a blue-eyed girl with blonde pigtails, dressed in a Hitler Youth uniform, smiling prettily while holding up a canister of Zyclon-B cyanide gas.

"Got Jews?" the shirt asked.

Three times, Leon karate-chopped his right hand over his heart and then thrust it upward in a Nazi salute. Three times, he cast his jagged voice into the Western world's most infamous rallying cry.

Sieg heil! A Nazi skinhead salutes the swastika at the Rocky Mountain Heritage Fest.
Sieg heil! A Nazi skinhead salutes the swastika at the Rocky Mountain Heritage Fest.
A last-second venue shift was made to this Arvada rental hall.
Brett Amole
A last-second venue shift was made to this Arvada rental hall.

Sieg heil! Sieg heil! Sieg heil!

Leon was one of over 150 white-power skinheads and neo-Nazis crowded inside a rented hall in an Arvada strip mall on Saturday, July 13. This was Leon's first visit to Denver; he had taken time off work and driven halfway across the country to party with his white-power brethren at the Rocky Mountain Heritage Fest.

A one-day festival featuring big-name hate-rock bands such as Final War, Max Resist, Intimidation One and H8 Machine, Heritage Fest had been hyped on white-power Web sites and in mass mailings since early June as the first event of its kind in the Rocky Mountain region. Every year, a different portion of the country hosts a Heritage festival; last year's was held in West Virginia, and the year before that, it was in Michigan. The 2002 Heritage Fest drew Nazi skins from Colorado as well as at least seven other states (Texas, Oregon, California, Virginia, West Virginia, Minnesota and Michigan) and Germany, a country referred to by the Americans in attendance as "the Fatherland."

The bands played on a low stage in front of a red, white and black Iron Eagle swastika flag. The hall -- tile floor, fluorescent lights -- was lined with vendor tables selling hate-rock T-shirts and compact discs, posters of Hitler and copies of Mein Kampf, The Turner Diaries and Who's Really Running America?

Recruiters from the two most prominent white-power organizations in the country, the World Church of the Creator and the National Alliance, circulated through the crowd, distributing membership forms, stickers and propaganda films on DVD. Skinheads from Minnesota handed out campaign literature for Larry Leininger, that state's White Working Man's Party candidate for U.S. Senate.

Leininger's platform: "Reestablish segregation. Enact and enforce new laws against mixed-race marriages and breeding. Repeal Hate Crime laws and domestic violence laws. Abolish affirmative action. Stop all aid to Israel. Stop all immigration into the country. Pull out of the U.N. Clean up our lakes, rivers, ground water, and air."

Whenever Nazi skinheads try to gather in this country, Anti-Racist Action protesters try to stop them, often with the assistance of national hate-group monitoring organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, which share intelligence with local ARA chapters in cities where white-power events are scheduled.

The Rocky Mountain Heritage Fest was funded by Heritage Press, a Colorado Springs-based mail-order house specializing in white-power texts. In order to prevent ARA from spoiling their plans, the event's organizers tried to keep the festival's location a secret until just a few hours before it was scheduled to start.

They failed.

Heritage Fest's chief organizer was "Jen 88," a 23-year-old resident of the Denver area. (H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, making "88" neo-Nazi code for "Heil Hitler.") "As far as how I feel and why I wanted to do [the festival], it was because there are lot of people in Colorado and a lot of other places who are racially aware just like I am," Jen 88 says. "I wanted us all to be able to unite here in Colorado and to let people know here that we don't have to hide just because we feel the way we do."

One of the investors from Heritage Press, 28-year-old "Thor," says the festival cost $8,000 to stage. "We lost most of it," he says. "That sucked. But we still consider it a success in the end, because a lot of people tried to shut us down, but we still had a show. That's the way we look at it. We came out on top in an unfair situation.

"I mean, come on, you have gangster rap bands that come out here, and no one is shutting them down, but as soon as someone says, 'I'm white and I'm proud' and they want to have a pro-white concert, everybody wants to cry about it and keep it from happening."

The first sign of trouble for the skinheads came a week before the festival, when computer hackers sabotaged the Heritage Press Web site, redirecting its traffic to an audio-file archive of prank phone calls from "Britney Spear's penis."

About that same time, ARA radicals sent out e-mail bulletins and posted fliers across the Denver area announcing that a "White Power/Nazi festival" was headed this way. The flier showed a swastika being crushed beneath a black leather boot.

"TAKE A STAND against racist terror," it read. "SLAP White Supremacy in its racist face...We MUST NOT sit back ideally [sic] and watch our communities be terrorized by NAZI SCUM."

The e-mails and fliers called for anti-racist protesters to meet at ten o'clock the morning of the festival at the new Martin Luther King Jr. statue in City Park. From there, the plan was to organize a protest march culminating in a demonstration outside the Aztlan Theatre, where Heritage Fest was supposed to begin that afternoon -- a closely guarded nugget of information the anti-racists purloined through means they refuse to reveal.

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