Thirty years ago, someone had a great idea: Let's put neo-Nazi skinheads on the same show as a group of civil rights leaders. What could happen?
What did happen was during the taping, one of the members of the White Aryan Resistance Youth called Roy Innis an "Uncle Tom." These, along with others were fighting words, and a fight broke out. Once the melee was quelled, and the host's nose was broken, they went on to tape the next two shows for the week. The host's name? Geraldo Rivera, who referred to the skinheads as "roaches." Apparently even roaches have the right to free speech.
The young man who made the racist comment on that show? John Metzger, son of Tom Metzger who founded the White Aryan Resistance after he left the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1980's. The roach didn't fall far from the roach tree. John added "Youth" to the title and he was set.
In 1990, young John spent a couple days on the witness stand in Portland, Oregon. He and his father were being sued for ten million dollars because it was alleged that they had incited violence and the murder of Mulugeta Seraw who was beaten to death by a member of the White Aryan Roaches. The Metzgers lost that battle. To the tune of twelve and a half million dollars.
Which may be why the newest crop of roaches have returned to Portland this summer, most recently over the past weekend. The "alt-right" movement skittered out into the light under the guidance of Joey Gibson, whose group Patriot Prayer says they are "hoping for peace but prepared for war." Which came in the form of violent confrontations with "anti-fa" protesters. Surprise, surprise. And while we're at it, last time I checked, weren't "anti-fascits" more easily recognized by their other name: Americans? It was in Portland a little more than a year ago that two men were stabbed, one fatally, by a participant in one of Joey's "Free Speech" marches.
And every time one of these experiments in free speech take place, violence erupts. And yet it feels brand new. Take it from Geraldo: there is nothing new. And that vault in Al Capone's basemet? It's empty. Except for the roaches.