Hammerskin Nation, the white supremacist group that Oak Creek, Wisc., gurdwara gunman Wade Michael Page was a member of, has planned a two-day music festival in Boise, Idaho, for Oct. 6.
The annual “Hammerfests” have been held around the country in various venues since 1988. Page and his band, “End Apathy,” had reportedly played at previous events. Hammerskin Nation has not disclosed the specific venue for this year’s events, but information posted to crew38.com, an online Hammerskin Nation forum, confirmed that the festival would occur Oct. 6 in Boise.
On Aug. 5, Page stormed the Oak Creek, Wisc., gurdwara and killed six Sikhs before committing suicide. In the wake of the attacks, Sikh civil rights organizations have asked for increased protection from federal and law enforcement agencies, and more government resources devoted to investigating domestic terrorism.
“This is obviously troubling,” Amardeep Singh, director of programs at the Sikh Coalition, told India-West. The organization plans to work with the Boise Sikh community, which does not have a formal gurdwara but meets each month at a private home with a residential address posted to its Web site. The informal gurdwara is known as the “Ajit Nanaksar Sikh Temple, Inc.”
Domestic terrorism specialist Daryl Johnson, founder of DT Analytics, told India-West that the threat of a planned terrorist attack coinciding with the festival was “very low.”
But because there is a lot of drinking at such events and a “firing up” of support for white supremacy, there is a risk for potential hate crimes to occur, added Johnson, formerly a domestic terrorist analyst at the Department of Homeland Security.
“Someone could let their guard down and confront the minority guy in the parking lot,” said Johnson, adding that synagogues, African American churches, Latinos and homeless people are all potential targets for hate-motivated attacks.
Law enforcement must maintain a visible presence at the venue, especially later in the evening as concert-goers get drunk, stated Johnson. Ideally, law enforcement could also maintain a presence at nearby minority places of worship, he said. Security is difficult, said Johnson, because the group does not generally disclose its venue beforehand, and generally rents space in a social hall under a different name.
“They’re not saying ‘we’re a bunch of skinheads coming in here to drink and break stuff up,’” said Johnson, noting that the organization will generally rent space under the pretext of hosting wedding festivities and similar events.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center who specializes in violent extremism, told India-West that Hammerskin Nation was founded in 1988 as the Confederate Hammerskins, who then built up a number of regional organizations.
“They are a racist, skinhead group with a reputation for extreme violence,” stated Potok, noting that the annual white supremacist “power fests” are usually held in secret locations and almost always outdoors.
Potok said there was little risk of a Page-like copycat attack occurring at Hammerfest. Hammerskin Nation attempted to distance itself from the shooter after the gurdwara massacre, Potok told India-West, adding, “There was no commentary on the online forums saying, ‘yeah, that was a great thing to do.’”
Page was a “patched” member of the Northern Hammerskins, and had signed on for membership two years ago, said Johnson.
Sgt. Jeff Basterrechea, of the Boise Police Department, told local news media that law enforcement was aware of the planned music festival and has made the event a “high priority.”
“The mayor’s office has received numerous complaints about this,” said Basterrechea, who had not returned several calls for comment by press time.