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Home / Articles / News / Cover Story /  Johnny's Rotten Page 2
Cover Story

Johnny's Rotten Page 2

Johnny Bangerter wants to move forward as an activist but just can't shake his racist punk past

By Jesse Fruhwirth
Posted // April 10,2013 -

In his late teens, Bangerter’s band played at an anti-nuclear encampment in southern Utah where Martin Sheen, other celebrities and hundreds of everyday people orchestrated their own arrests to protest nuclear power and testing. Bangerter’s family believes his older sister’s leukemia was caused by nuclear testing, but her claim for compensation and care was denied.

In 1986, at age 16, Bangerter wed his girlfriend of a few months. They’re still married, parents to four children.

But tensions in Fuck, Shit, Piss were growing—as they were in the greater punk scene—as Bangerter and his stepfather drifted toward the skinhead current while his two other bandmates followed the anti-racist current, whose patience with Nazi beliefs and iconography was wearing thin.

The divide in the punk scene predated Bangerter. In 1982, the Dead Kennedys recorded the prescient song “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” a retort to openly racist bands.

At a 1987 Fuck, Shit, Piss show, Bangerter wore a swastika armband onstage, which amounted to taking sides in the neo-Nazi vs. anti-Nazi divide. The anti-Nazi members of the band and audience wouldn’t take it. A riot ensued.

“One side was yelling, ‘White power, white power!’ The cops showed up,” Bangerter says.

He knew what he was doing: He was blowing up and burning down his whole scene, the way a militant punker would, and the divorce would be symbolized on his face. Then widely known as Johnny Bangs for his haircut that made his bangs jut from his head like a unicorn horn, he cut off his namesake bangs in favor of a buzzcut. Bangerter had found a new muse.

A year prior to Fuck, Shit, Piss breaking up, Bangerter had met an older man who got him a construction job that paid $1 more per hour than he’d been making. The man invited Bangerter, 17, to a meeting of an anti-government tax-resistance group Committee of the States, founded by anti-Jewish activist Col. William Gale.

As Bangerter was wooed by the far-right anti-government scene, he began recruiting young people from the punk scene, pulling them into his meetings and organizing them under the name Vegas Skinheads. “They were a bunch of guys with shaved heads who, months earlier, had mohawks,” he says.

Asked what made him so angry—his family’s exposure to radiation, his terrible experience in Las Vegas public schools, his family torn apart and run out of town by moralistic Mormons?—he sort of shrugs. It’s all of those things, and none of them, he says—even Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” segments made him hate the government.

It’s far more clear what led him to racism. As Bangerter tells it, the racists like Aryan Nations were the only militant anti-government people he found. He’d grown contemptuous of left-leaning groups who, in order to stop nuclear power plants, lay down in the road to be arrested, rather than provoke revolution. He’d tired of the punks, he’d tired of liberals. Johnny Bangs’ future was in right-wing insurrection.

Christian Identity Skinheads
Still working in construction, Bangerter began his rise as a skinhead leader.

He estimates that in the late 1980s, there were maybe 300 skinhead-identified people in his community, many who saw him as a star in the movement. The Las Vegas Review-Journal already referred to him as a “notorious” skinhead leader.

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The motivation for Bangerter’s group’s 500-name hit list came when Imperial Palace casino magnate and Hitler sympathizer Ralph Engelstad was under fire for hosting a Hitler birthday party. Investigations uncovered a multimillion-dollar collection of Nazi memorabilia in a private room.

During the gaming commission’s investigation, the militant Jewish Defense Organization came to protest the hotel in March 1989. About 20 of Bangerter’s skinheads showed up to support the casino, chanting, “Heil Hitler.” According to news reports, a fight broke out between protesters, and nine people from both sides were arrested.

The day after appearing on national news with his 500-name hit list, Bangerter’s home was raided by law enforcement. “They kicked in the doors, they had a search warrant, [FBI agents] were accompanied by Las Vegas Metro Intelligence,” Bangerter says.

One cop figured out they were a bunch of 15- to 20-year-old punks manipulating the media to get attention. He seemed to want to give them an out.

“A cop tells me, ‘You’ve got 500 counts of solicitation of murder, if this is a hit list,’ ” Bangerter says. “ ‘If this is just a hate list, you can go on hatin’ whoever you want. So is this a hit list or a hate list?’ I said, “ ‘Well—it’s a hate list.’ ”

Later, Bangerter appeared as a militant racist on The Montel Williams Show, and his sister and mother appeared on Geraldo for a show about women in the racist movement.

But a number of Bangerter’s actions were neither violent, racist nor anti-Semitic, like Operation Burning Bush. Upon the invasion of Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm, Bangerter and his crew subverted a federal program promoting letters of support to members of the military. For 25 cents, you could send a letter addressed to “any serviceman.” Bangerter and his band printed and mailed thousands of fliers portraying President George H.W. Bush being burned at a stake and asking the soldiers to revolt. Bangerter says that their P.O. box was seized, and they received threatening letters from the Department of Defense, but no legal charges ever resulted. Newspapers nationwide carried the story.

At this point, the Las Vegas home of Bangerter, his wife and kids, and his mother and stepdad was surrounded by chicken wire, and they’d built a defensive bunker in their front yard. They had been the targets of multiple drive-by shootings—Bangerter remembers that Las Vegas residents reported hundreds of residential drive-by shootings each year during this time.

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The skinheads organized a well-armed neighborhood watch and the shootings abated. Meanwhile, Norm Bangerter—who Johnny Bangerter says is his father’s first-cousin—had been elected as the governor of Utah, serving from 1985 to 1993. He never commented to the media about his family’s Las Vegas black sheep.

In 1991, race riots broke out across the country. They also struck Las Vegas, which prompted Johnny Bangerter to relocate. Sensing it was a moment of revolution and chaos—something like end times brought on by race war—his family and followers headed for La Verkin, Utah, where they hoped to organize a militia and defend themselves.

Lion in Zion
Upon arriving in Utah in 1991, Bangerter’s Vegas-formed groups Las Vegas Skinheads and Christian Identity Skinheads became the Army of Israel. He continued his work in construction, as did some of his friends. Others worked in restaurants, but they all became mini-celebrities of reality-television caliber in small-town Utah. “We caused a big scene in Utah in ’91 and I played on my last name. I knew my last name in Utah held significance, so I used it,” Bangerter says.

The Army of Israel attended city-council meetings, published a newsletter with 150 subscribers, organized a small skinhead rally in Salt Lake City, and disrupted an October 1994 meeting in St. George that had been called to discuss issues of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Everything and everyone seemed rehearsed, as if they were going through the minimal motions to guarantee news reports,” says Dave Nelson, a longtime Salt Lake City LGBT rights activist who was at the meeting. “If that was the muscle of Utah white supremacy, I was left unimpressed.”

Bangerter traveled to Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992, where federal law-enforcement officials were seeking to enforce weapons charges against anti-government isolationist Randy Weaver. After a 10-day standoff at the remote property in northern Idaho, they ended up killing Weaver’s wife and child; a U.S. marshal was also killed.

Even though he took loads of ammunition to Idaho, Bangerter says he only peacefully picketed, supporting Weaver and taunting federal officials. Having known Weaver prior to the standoff, Bangerter says, he spoke with Weaver during the standoff and urged him to end the raid.

Bangerter also traveled to Waco, Texas, in 1993, to support the Branch Davidians religious group in their standoff with federal agents and the Texas National Guard, which resulted in the deaths of the Branch Davidians’ leader, David Koresh, and 76 other Branch Davidians after a 51-day siege.

The Branch Davidians helped make him more skeptical of racists, Bangerter says, as some of the Aryan Nation-aligned groups refused to stand in solidarity with the Davidians due to conflicting doomsday politics: Koresh stood in solidarity with the Zionists of Israel, the white supremacists’ archenemies.

The Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidians standoffs would catalyze the nascent militia movement, making an increasing number of Americans question the government’s authority and violent tactics.

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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // November 1,2013 at 17:59

johnny bangerter, please contact your alaskan supporters. here's their number: 907-441-6284. let's talk busine

 

Posted // February 17,2014 at 23:42 - Call me 435 229 3670

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // July 29,2013 at 23:43

ASIA FOR THE ASIANS, AFRICA FOR THE AFRICANS, WHITE COUNTRIES FOR EVERYBODY!

Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i. e. , intermarry, with all those non-whites.

What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // April 14,2013 at 20:22

Please don't lump Nazi idiots in with Punk Rock. They're always hanging out on the edge of the scene, but there's nothing Punk Rock about being a racist.  

 

Posted // May 2,2013 at 20:55 - https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a. akamaihd. net/hphotos-ak-frc1/388466_168373429984269_1656975465_n. jpg

 

Posted // May 1,2013 at 22:20 - There's a party at the desert tonight , at the nuclear testing site . Painted cowards ignite the fuse . Nuclear leukemia front page news --------- The government does not accept a finger of blame , for the nuclear leukemia rain , but what about the Japanese , they're still sick from it down in Nagasaki . --------- If your patriotic then you wont complain , about the nuclear leukemia rain . Your an example of what they can do . Your a government guinea pig to . . . Fuck Shit Piss, Lyrics 1984 FUCK SHIT PISS Lyrics ( Newsman ) 1984 I'm a newsman , you can see me every day at five . All I know is how to read , and what to emphasize . I look right into the camera , I smile and say my name . Read the stories , twist the facts , I'm paid to play a game . I don't think I just read . I'm a newsman . See me tonight on the television . Selling an old brand of journalism . Reading a package of propaganda . How long can this crooked media survive . Read the stories every night , they're hardly ever true . Lied about Cambodia , lied about Afghanistan to . Lied about El Salvador , I lied about Sudan . Lied about the people who were murdered in Iran . I don't think I just read . I'm a newsman . See me tonight on the television . Selling an old brand of journalism . Reading a package of propaganda . How long can this crooked media survive . Fist of greed , lyrics F. S. P. 1984 The dirty world keeps changing , but the dirt remains the same. History has run the course and lapped itself again. We are at the mercy of the Gods of Government. The word is out and we have been misled . Make a contribution to the cause, it takes a lot of thought to get the point across . Fill the government with honest men , sure as hell we'll find they'll fool us every time . America the beautiful stands like a battered child, beaten by the fist of greed and self indulgent pride . They will get what they deserve , they've lied out loud to long . The wrath of justice will not be denied. A judgment on their fake humanity , will prove them guilty of the rape of liberty. The politics of freedom mystify, our own democracy has no integrity. Fuck Shit Piss 1984 Fuck shit piss Lyrics ( Kings and Queens ) 1984 We are the pawns , they are the Kings and Queens , in a government of secrecy and devious means . All tied to an alter with our values long gone . They are the Kings and we are the pawns . Hard to admit , but so easy to see . We are the pawns they are the Kings and Queens . The six o'clock news a pretty package of lies . The station makes a fortune selling alibis . Trading real issues for stories of sex . The network always knows what the people want next . The media is quick with a clandestine scheme . We are the pawns they are the Kings and Queens . Security is social for the I. R. S. , so the middle income man pays off the national debt . To hell with draft evaders send the young men to war . Murder is a virtue on a foreign shore . They are the ones in charge of the bombs , they are the Kings and we are the pawns . . . Lyrics ( Dead Mans Stares ) FUCK SHIT PISS L. V. H. C. 1984 Sometimes there's hope in this big town , but it's not all it seems . Sometimes the streets are rotten with societies disease . At night the city comes alive as neon fills the air . The people hear all look the same , they've all got dead man stares . They walk around in groups of five , an sometimes single file . Expressionless they never blink , to scared to laugh or smile . Some of them have gone to hell , some don't even care . Some will lie and shade their eyes , to hide the dead mans stare . Just like any other town the rich feed off the poor . Some are forced to play the game , some just know the score . Like lambs led to the slaughter , the poor don't have a prayer . They hang their heads and pay their dues , and wear their dead man stares . . . Fuck Shit Piss lyrics 1984 ( I want a war ) . . . I am getting drafted, and I'm going to war . I want to kill a thousand foreigners. I just want to murder for America, and do my part for the nuclear cause . Iwant a war ,I want a war , I want a war. I want to be a fucking veteran ,just like the ones that went to Vietnam . I want to kill and do some LSD . I want to fry and die so we can be free . I want a war , I want a war , I want a war , Married to my weapon I'm a murdering man . Killing for a living for my Uncle Sam . Got some ammunition and a bucket of blood . Patriotic murder I'm a killer from above . I want a war, I want a war, I want a war . . .

 

Posted // May 1,2013 at 22:04 - I know it is easy to judge people over their actions, however my life was not so simple for most people to understand. Again it has been hard for me to remain silent on this article written by Jesse Furhwirth. I am very glad he took the time to ask me about my life , it helped me move along past the image I had made for myself after becoming involved in the radical Right. I must first clear some of your prejudiced toward me. Lets go back to 1981. That was the year I stopped going to school because it was in the way of my free loving living life. I was working construction in the 120 degree Las Vegas heat, going to bars and drinking, along with drugs, it was a way of life that when I tell my children, they think I am telling them some sort of story from days over a few hundred years ago when laws were written words that that were not worth the shitty paper the were written on. Yes it was a much different place and time. Racialism was part of society back then. A white kid growing up in Vegas learned right away where he stood with his African American or Hispanic friends when those of their race came together as a large group. It was hard to to take as they suddenly acted as if they never knew you, and even sometimes turned on you with violence because of being white. Being called a Honkey, Cracker,and a white boy never did anger me. I knew that it was out of their control, so I never took it personal even as a child, only I knew very well it was unjust that it was permitted by monitors of the Clark County Nevada school district who would do absolutely nothing to protect children from daily racial derogatory insults, and sometimes near death beatings because the skin of those unfortunate children just so happened to be pink or white. I never used racial insults to hurt anyone , not ever, though I did see those Honkey children get sever punishment for lashing back and doing just what had been done to them every single day. Every single living person on this earth who lived in those times in that city will tell you it was not right. So lets get to those punk days, alright, on the edges ? Lived on the edge of life all my life, and don't regret anything I have ever done right or wrong, I can say I know the lessons very well. So it was 1981 On hot Las Vegas nights I would go to the punk gigs, not just weekends, you must understand this was Vegas, and punk shows and parties were 7 days a week in that lawless place. I worked from dark until dark every single day unless it was Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Fourth of July,raining or snowing, and it never snows that often in Sin City. Then after work I was to tired to shower, chopped up some lines of Cocaine, grabbed some liquor, a fat sack of grass and went to the gig. It was always an event to remember for a lifetime , every gig, Wasted Youth , Minute Men, 7 Seconds,Shattered Faith, Social Distortion, Dead Kennedys, T. S. O. L, Black Flag, White Flag, DRI, JFA, Mad Parade,Toxic Reasons, Joneses, Fontenells,Agent Orange,Adolescents,Fang, Pig Children, Dead Milkmen, MDC, Descendants, Bad Religion, Reagan Youth, hell Vegas was the fucking place, so many of those people in those bands stayed at my home every time they were in town. How could I forget NoFx, Eric and Fat Mike, they were real comedians, some of the nicest guys to tour with, . It was fun hanging out with those guys. I will never forget our times with them in SF, and hiking in Zion National Park dropping LSD , always will love them. You see, there were many people with differing politics in the punk movement, I was a young kid handing out Communist literature from the Revolutionary Communist Workers Party. Involved myself with the Weather Unbderground as well. It's a long story, and Jesse Fruhwirth already wrote down as much as he could fit in to the SL Weekly without taking 97 full pages up. Never touched on Redd Foxx and the IRS, Threatening to dust off Orin Hatch because he sucks ass. Ruby Ridge was not as simple as most think, still am bothered very badly over it. I just don't like you calling me an idiot when you never met me. I would love to brag way more about my wild life, and I don't care either, I love to talk about my life because it was very different than most others. So hope to meet you some day , and perhaps will if you are active in causes for justice. Sincerely Johnny Bangs, Fuck Shit Piss.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // April 10,2013 at 10:26

"To me, punk rock was a civil-liberties cause, not a fad,. . There was an activist core in our youth scene called Positive Force. We became active in the anti-nuclear stuff, definitely on the left, feeding the homeless, that kind of stuff. Like what Food Not Bombs is today. ”

People ight want to know that Food Not Bombs was involved in bringing Punk to the United States and helped organize punk shows as early as 1980 with the idea that punk would be another way to reach younng people with our ideas of building a post capitalist future free from violence and poverty. The Dead Kennedys, MDC, Bad Brains, Avail are just some of the many bands that worked with Food Not Bombs and helped make our movement world wide.


 

Posted // April 10,2013 at 18:16 - I got into the punk scene ( Movement ) in 1981 while living in Las Vegas, Yes Food Not Bombs was very instrumental in those days, and still doing the good work today.

 

 
 
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