Twenty years after their heyday, the anti-racist Baldies recount the rise and fall of a notorious Twin Cities scene
Skinheads at Forty
By Matt Snyders
Dusk was descending as a dozen skinheads eyed their counterparts across Lagoon Avenue. The ragtag crew stood their ground, the rubber soles of their Doc Martens defiantly gripping asphalt.
Across the street stood a mirror image. They too had close-cropped hair, ample tattoos, and punk-rock piercings. But as they stood facing each other that day, a chasm much wider than a busy Uptown thoroughfare separated the crews.
The Baldies were "traditional skins," which is to say leftist, anti-racist militants. They devoted their days to stomping out fascism, often quite literally. Any neo-Nazi spotted on their turf in Uptown was promptly treated to a "boot party"—three or more skins kicking the offending party mercilessly with steel-toed Docs.
Their boot-wearing rivals across the way represented a totally different breed of skinhead, a subculture much more familiar to the general public: nationalistic, far-right neo-Nazis.
The Baldies marched toward their rivals. Just as they were about to clash, a girl's voice rang out.
"He's got a gun!"
Pandemonium ensued. Gator—the boisterous young co-founder of the anti-racist skins—dove behind a car and braced himself for gunshots. None came. Instead, an adjoining parking lot became the scene of vicious hand-to-hand combat. The skinheads swung Louisville sluggers and ax handles recklessly into faces and bodies. Teeth fell to the asphalt like pearls from torn necklaces. Blood splattered the collars of flight jackets.
The riot had lasted more than two minutes when the neo-Nazis relented. "Let's go!" one yelled, and they all jumped into a white pickup belonging to the guitarist of local white power band Mass Corruption.
As the racist crew sped down Lagoon, the Baldies pelted the pickup with rocks, sticks, and beer bottles, shattering a side window. The neo-Nazis covered their heads from the raining debris.
Gator searched the ground for a projectile and came across a cobblestone lying alongside the curb. When the vehicle was close enough for Gator to get a clean shot at it, he jumped into the middle of the road and hurled the brick through the front windshield. The pickup swerved, regained control, and sped off.