By Sarah Walters
Something that shouldn’t come as a surprise about neo-Nazis: They fight dirty.
I expected their affinity for metal music and shitty IPA beer. I didn’t expect the biting and the hair-pulling.
I discovered my expectations or lack of understanding of them on what started as an average night in high school during the height of my metal music phase: another evening in a run-down warehouse.
It housed a flea market during the day, but at night it transformed into a home for all ages looking to express their emotions through smudged eyeliner and screamed lyrics.
“She” stood out in the crowd of all black.
She wore a white tank top and sunflower-colored shorts. I’m sure she mentioned her name at some point in the evening, but I don’t remember it.
I do remember that she separated from her friends and was scared, so our group adopted her for the night. She stuck with us even as we made our way to the bar.
I hoped the Attila shirt I cut to a muscle top and far too short shorts would give the illusion of “drinking age.”
That was a bust — until my savior arrived, a tall 18-year-old with a sleeve of various tattoos and a fake ID whose name I cannot remember.
I do remember that we hit it off to the point where my friends left us with their eyebrows wiggling.
After a few beers — and sideways glances from the bartender — my drinking buddy pointed to a man at the end of the bar — head shaved and wearing a worn denim vest.
The ensemble was not unusual for this crowd. The Nazi flag that replaced the back panel of the vest was.
I am a Jewish woman, and I saw that flag many times before in films and on television — ever present and followed by hollowed figures in striped uniforms and stout brick building with smoke billowing from it.
But I never placed it in “real.”
The way this man wore it so casually made my stomach flip.
We flagged down the bartender to make out unease known. I don’t remember the conversation, but I’m sure it went like this:
Us: Is there any way you can get that Nazi out of here?
Bartender: He’s a paying customer and hasn’t done anything as of right now. I’ve got no real power to kick him out. He said he’s only here for a few drinks, and then he’ll leave.
“A few drinks” turned into several bottles for the flag-bearer and an equal number of friends to accompany him, all of them in similar dress.
My “few drinks” made me drunk and itching to see them gone.
My drinking partner kept me at bay, reminding me that I would get kicked out if I started a ruckus.
So, I stewed in my beer until they seemingly disappeared. I did not know how or why — (alcohol involved?) — but at the time, it looked like they just, “poof,” went away.
We drank to celebrate until the girl in the happy shorts appeared, her white tank top drenched in blood that spilled from her nose. The alcohol drained from my system, quickly replaced with a Jewish mom’s maternal instinct.
We’d told her to mind her space and avoid the mosh pit.
She’d been pulled into the pit and shoved around until she hit the floor and crawled out.
Like a soldier reporting to his commanding officer that the enemy breached the line, we were told “The Nazis took over the pit.”
The people in the pit — usually only filled with a fraction of the night’s crowd — now tripled in size and with a handful of drunken men. They would snatch an innocent bystander and beat on them before tossing them back.
We doted on the injured Sunshine Shorts and formed a game plan.
The venue policy “mosh at your own risk,” left reporting them out. The band playing seemed bewildered by the gang and ended their set early. The warehouse filled with a dull murmur until the next set started.
We stopped the girl’s bleeding nose and got her a clean shirt.
And when an attractive older man holds a hand out to you and says, “Wanna go punch some Nazis?” well, you have no choice but to accept.
A band got on stage and started its soundcheck. Our gang prepared for battle.
We pulled out our piercings, tossed our hair into buns, and handed phones over for safekeeping.
The band’s front man saw the storm coming and called for everyone to open the pit and rage.
After the first guitar riff, it was on.
I locked onto a “skinner” and tackled him. From there it became blind punches and hair-pulling. I know I landed a few good licks because I felt his nose crunch beneath my fist.
I’d never experienced anger like that.
I didn’t feel any pain, no matter how hard I hit or got hit. I saw the others around me fighting just as hard. Bloody noses, broken bones and bodies tossed around led the Neo-Nazi flagbearers to retreat.
I sat at a stool in the bar and cataloged my injuries: a broken nose, a broken middle and ring finger on my right hand, and plenty of scratches and bruises.
Time to go home.
I called my parents and lied about the pit getting too intense and how I’d gotten banged up.
I said goodbye to my friends and waited on the curb outside.
Cold washed over me — replaced by realization.
Compliance meant complacence.
We followed the rules and let faux Nazis stay in the bar, so, in essence, we told them they belonged there.
I now have a new policy: Rules don’t apply to assholes.