Throw-Back-Thursday - Disturbing Reality

For this week’s Throw-Back-Thursday, I would like to share this image from March 4th 1989. This original Associated Press Wire LaserPhoto would have shown up on editors’ desks in newspapers and magazines across the US back in 1989.

I have covered many protest and riots over the years, most recently the crazy Occupy Oakland protests, but the one that stands out as the most disturbing, was this white supremacist neo-Nazi skinhead protest in Napa, California.

Originally touted as the “Aryan Woodstock,’’ this week long recruiting concert was to be held at a private isolated ranch just outside Napa. With bands sympathetic to white supremacist neo-Nazi skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members.

Unfortunately, the necessary concert permits had not been obtained, putting an end to the music but not to the hateful gathering.

Lacking the music concert the number of white supremacist dwindled down from an expected crowds numbering in the thousands, to about one hundred. Now facing off with around four hundred anti-skinhead protesters, including members of the New York based Guardian Angels.

Fearing violence between the skinheads and protesters over 200 law-enforcement officers, some in riot gear, were on duty at the site.  

What surprised me from the start was that the white supremacist members who were condemned by the protesters for their racist views and violent history were relatively quiet and subdued.

It was the protestors who came to denounce the skinheads who were the ones with all the anger, hateful language, and threats of physical violence, many of them spitting, throwing rocks and gravel, and forcing confrontations. Including a Guardian Angel who through a punch at a Klan member.

Bill Albers, a member of the Ku Klux Klan being chased by a mob of protesters. AP/Peter DaSilva

Bill Albers, a member of the Ku Klux Klan being chased by a mob of protesters. AP/Peter DaSilva

Disturbing…YES!  Not the way I would have thought when the day began. The groups who deplored hatred, racism and violence were no different than the ones that prescribed hate, racism and violence.

Don’t get me wrong, I disagree with what the Klan and groups like them stand for, but how are we to change how people treat each other, if the ones fighting against these views, become just as violent?

Found in the archive - "Sonny" Barger of the Hells Angels

While fishing around in my archive, I came across this rare chrome from one of those assignments you were not sure about once you read the subjects name.

Ralph Hubert  "Sonny"  Barger  -  ©1988 Peter DaSilva

Ralph Hubert "Sonny" Barger - ©1988 Peter DaSilva

Ralph Hubert "Sonny" Barger, who was a founding member (1957) of the Oakland, California, U.S. chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. It was to make a portrait of Barger on his 50th birthday back in 1988 at his custom motorcycle shop in Oakland, CA. At first I was hesitant, especially during the walk from the entrance of the shop to the counter to ask for Sonny. I think it was the searing stares I got until Barger came out and advised his crew I was OK. The shoot went smoothly and he was gracious and pleasant to work with. But shortly after that shoot, Barger was found guilty of conspiring to blow up the clubhouse of a rival motorcycle club, The Outlaws in Louisville, Kentucky and spent four years in a federal prison in Arizona.

As I look back, I realize how special this opportunity was and glad I got to meet and photograph such a major figure in the history of the Hells Angels.