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Cover Story

Johnny's Rotten Page 3

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 -

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But all that ended abruptly in 1995, Bangerter says, with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people. Timothy McVeigh, the man convicted and later executed for the bombing, and co-conspirator Terry Nichols claimed to be motivated by the Waco raid, even timing the Oklahoma City bombing to coincide with the second anniversary of the Waco assault on the Branch Davidians.

McVeigh and Nichols had several connections to the militia movement. It wasn’t just Bangerter’s world McVeigh was connected to, but also Bangerter himself—ever so loosely. Phone records from McVeigh’s trial allegedly show phone calls between John Bangerter’s father’s house and a known member of the Michigan Militia, which held a meeting attended by Terry Nichols shortly before the bombing, though Bangerter denies a personal connection to the bombing.

He believes Oklahoma City was an inside job, perpetrated by the government to delegitimize the anti-government movement that Ruby Ridge and Waco had ignited. The phone records, Bangerter says, were faked, and he believes he narrowly escaped being framed and implicated in the bombing.

But maybe that’s just John Bangerter, still “screaming” after all these years. Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, covered the Oklahoma City bombing and trial for USA Today and today tracks racist leaders.

He recalls Bangerter’s legacy in the racist movement not as an influential philosopher or ideologue, nor as a real soldier or general, but as a “screamer”–someone who makes threats but never cocks a gun in pursuit of the goal.

Potok says despite Bangerter’s penchant for violent talk but no violent action, there was something genuinely very frightening about him during his racist days. “There are plenty of guys out there with racist dispositions, but he was so amped up on speed he looked incredibly dangerous.”

Falls Down
In a 1997 segment of 48 Hours, the sheriff of Washington County registered concern that all of then-28-year-old Bangerter’s big talk and big anger might force Bangerter to act someday. The sheriff also complained about the media making southern Utah look like a home for kooks.

The episode featured Bangerter and his newly named Rocky Mountain Militia. Cameras followed Bangerter as he resisted going to court for some traffic violations. The sheriff met with Bangerter politely to coax him into court—and, after a lot of buildup that leaves the viewer expecting a violent standoff, Bangerter eventually voluntarily went to court.

After the taping ended, Bangerter would indeed fail to appear in court after having moved to a St. George apartment for 10 months—more of a hideout than a standoff, but defiant nevertheless. When police found him there, they arrested him. He did a little time in prison—which he served at “Purgatory,” the Washington County Jail—on two stints: a couple of months in 1998 for carrying a loaded weapon and evading police, and nine months in 2000 after being arrested for possession of methamphetamine. But his six years of frequent meth use distracted him significantly from self-righteous race pride.

“[Methamphetamine] was probably the best medicine I’d ever had, as far as moving me away from the white-supremacy bullshit,” Bangerter says.

During his second sentencing hearing, Bangerter renounced the Aryan Nations and white supremacy. Though his star power had faded significantly by then, the local media were still there to report on his fate. But for the first time, what he was saying wasn’t mostly for the cameras.

Since starting on his racist ride in the 1980s, Bangerter had had four kids. His oldest son came out of the closet as gay around 2000, just after Bangerter got out of prison the second time. Soon, his daughter would marry a part-Hispanic man. This all forced Bangerter and his family to reassess, and by then, everyone’s fervor for white power had waned—and the dream of a militia-lead insurrection with it.

After he got out of prison, he refocused his life. He re-established his punk band in 2001 with a couple of new members. He moved back to Las Vegas for some time, still working construction, then moved back to southern Utah in 2005, where he’s been ever since.

“I’ve been dormant,” Bangerter says. “I’ve changed my name to Johnny Bangs, my old punk-rock name. I’m under the radar. I dropped out of the race.”

Legacy
Now older, bigger and barely more docile, this grizzly is awaking from hibernation to the sound of gun fire. Bangerter attended rallies with supporters of Danielle Willard, 21, shot dead by West Valley Police in November 2012; Corey Kanosh, 35, shot dead by a Millard County Sheriff’s deputy in October 2012; and Kelly Simons, 38, shot dead in Salt Lake City by a Joint Criminal Apprehension Team in January 2013; and others. He also spends countless hours on Facebook connecting victims of police violence to one another across the country. That’s where the whispers about his racist past pop up. “I’m pretty sure that’s Neo-Nazi John Bangerter from Southern Utah,” people warn when his name pops up on newspaper comment boards or Facebook.

But he has even bigger worries than what his new comrades think of his past. “I have a genuine concern for my family’s safety. The only people I worry about murdering me are old people from the radical right and the federal government,” Bangerter says. “Because I said racism is wrong, homophobia is wrong, because I joined a Gay-Straight Alliance with my son. I’ve done things that lead to certain execution in the radical right.”

Looking back, Bangerter is ambivalent about his involvement in the skinhead/militia movement. He says he’s not proud of it, but also says he has no regrets. You might say he’s still processing it. After all, a person doesn’t erase internalized racism simply by desiring to do so. “My [mother’s father] was half Cherokee Indian,” he says. “That’s how I got my high cheek bones and probably where I get my bad temper when I drink.” He jokes about his part-Jewish father being really good at pinching pennies to start a vending-machine business.

But however great or lean his progress is, Bangerter’s urge to fight the government—and oppression—has been reignited. 

Jesse Fruhwirth is a former City Weekly staff writer and is now a full-time community organizer and movement journalist reporting issues of the prison-industrial complex and climate justice. Find him on Twitter @fruhwirth or go to http://ut4ps.tumblr.com.

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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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