dr martens monkey ‘Skinhead’ Groups of White Youths Appear on Rise
The Huntington Beach Skins, which was formed over the summer and now boasts up to 25 members, is part of a new trend in Orange County gangdom: gangs predominantly made up of white, middle class youths called Skinheads.
“It’s like a gang in a barrio, but this isn’t a barrio,” said Stewart Smith, 17, standing among a dozen of his fellow gang members gathered in front of a 7 Eleven store during their lunch break from nearby Edison High School. “We’re American children. We’re not wetbacks or black or nothing like that,” Cornball said, echoing racist sentiments common among Skinheads, but denying that they are a white supremacist gang.
Known for their shaved heads and their unofficial uniform of flight jackets, shirts buttoned to the neck and black English work boots called Dr. Martens, Skinheads first surfaced in England in the 1970s, the result of social unrest and English working class resentment of immigrant workers.
Influenced by neo Nazism, the Skinhead movement has become an international phenomenon, with some members espousing white supremacy and racial violence. Others are merely embracing the anti establishment Skinhead style but not the white power philosophy behind the racist symbols.
Orange County’s Skinhead gangs are so new and loosely organized that many city police departments do not even know the white gangs exist in their communities.
But Deputy Probation Officer Mike Fleager, the white gang specialist for the county Probation Department’s newly formed Gang Violence Suppression Unit, has identified eight to 10 Skinhead gangs in the county, including the North West Orange County Skins, Los Alamitos Skins, La Habra Skins and Huntington Beach Hard Core. Each gang, he said, claims anywhere from a dozen to 50 members.
“Based on what I see out there, I think what we’re seeing is the Skinhead developing more and more into what we consider a classic gang,” Fleager said. “It’s an absolute trend. I don’t even know if the kids recognize it as a trend, but from an observer’s standpoint, you can’t deny the tendency.”
Jerome Kirk, associate professor of sociology and anthropology at UC Irvine, said, “We may be exaggerating not only the size and scope (of the Skinhead movement), but we may be exaggerating the elaborateness of the ideology.
“I think it’s easy to see the phenomenon it’s certainly visible, and they say some pretty scary things but I don’t think (some young people) know what they’re saying. They’ve found some phrases to get some rises out of straight grown ups. Some of this has the same significance as the swastikas favored by bikers. It’s a symbol, but what’s behind it is much shallower than something like Nazism.”
Still, he added: “I think we should have appropriate fear and respect for the dangerousness of some of the things they have to say. Countywide arrest statistics are unavailable.
Fleager maintains, however, that it doesn’t take long for Skinheads’ racist tendencies to surface at least among those he deals with.
“They may not classify themselves as white supremacists,” he said, “but when you talk to them, their philosophy oozes with it. They’re into the neo Nazi, they’re doing swastikas. They don’t like Jews specifically. It is a life style: They live it, breathe it, and dress it if they’re hard core Skinheads.”In California over the last year, Skinheads’ racist rhetoric has increasingly erupted into violence:
In San Jose, Skinheads terrorized a black woman by making racist threats and denying her access to a park.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, Skinheads threw a teen age boy through a plate glass window after he tried to stop them from putting up an anti Semitic poster.
In Chatsworth, police arrested eight members of the Reich Skins, a Skinhead gang that operated in the western part of the San Fernando Valley. Police said the group was involved in racial terrorism known as hate crimes for up to six months before the October arrests.