BOISE -- A neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang has announced plans to hold a music festival near Boise on October 6th.
Police say the event is a tool to recruit new members of a dangerous hate group.
This is a very high priority. The mayor's office has received numerous complaints about this, Boise Police Department Gang Intelligence Unit Sergeant Jeff Basterrechea said.
Posters have popped up on Facebook and other places around the web, announcing Hammerfest 2012, a music festival put on by the white power group Hammerskin Nation.
Police: Hammerskins are a violent hate group
Police say they consider the group a gang, known for using violence to convey a message of white superiority.
The Hammerskins are a hate group, Basterrechea said. They do differ a little bit from most gangs in terms of most gangs commit their crimes for profits, where hate groups commit their crimes based upon a political or philsophical belief.
Ever since the poster surfaced, Boise Police have been on alert and gathering information about Hammerfest and what might happen at the event.
What they do is ... bring in well known skinhead bands to play music at certain venues in order to recruit young adult white males into their organizations, Basterrechea said.
Former Hammerskins recruiter speaks
T.J. Leyden is now a public activist who speaks against hate and intolerance. However, for about for 15 years of his life, Leyden was a member of the Hammerskins. He says he worked out of Hailey, Idaho recruiting new members with events like Hammerfest.
This will be a recruiting activity, Leyden said. They're going to say hey, come to this show; these kids are going to see it; they're going to get all pumped up; they're going to think it's fantastic.
Leyden warns that the group instead has violent tendencies, and he advises everyone to stay away from the event.
The group is extremely violent, Leyden told KTVB. The Hammerfests that they throw in different parts of the country are designed for a couple things: one, [they're] designed for unity, but ... also designed to get people's anxiety up.
My best suggestion is, let law enforcement handle these guys, Leyden advises. Don't go out and counter-protest. This is what they want. They want counter-protesters yelling, screaming and hollering out there to make them feel like they're big, tough men.
Hosting white power events is legal -- violence is not
Area police plan to watch for any sign of problems with Hammerskins or protestors during the upcoming event. Leyden and police advise people not to gather around the event, and police emphasize simply hosting a music event is not illegal, no matter who the group is.
Mainly, what we try to do is monitor it -- make sure that if they do hold their concert, that it's held in a safe manner for both the members and for the community as a whole, Basterrechea said. What we try to do is respect everybody's First Amendment rights, but in the same sense, we have to make sure these groups [Hammerskins and potential protesters] don't comingle because a lot of times what happens is you have these events turn very violent.
Police and Leyden both want parents to be aware of what's going on and discuss the group's views and beliefs with children.
People have been stabbed after these events, Leyden said. People have been murdered and killed after these events, so it's not one of those things you want to play with. You need to talk to your kids and you need to tell your kids about it.
Exact location remains unknown
The Hammerfest event is scheduled for October 6th, but the location remains undisclosed. The group's flier simply indicates the location will be near Boise. Police say they are working with local venues to make them aware of the group.
On at least one website, the Boise Centre was listed as the event's venue; however, the venue confirms to KTVB that is untrue. Additionally, management posted this on the venue's facebook account: We have received calls regarding an event called Hammerfest on Oct 6 that was listed on hotlist.com This event is not being held at Boise Centre and we are not affiliated with the event or the promoters. We have contacted hotlist.com to remove the incorrect listing.
Additionally, the Basque Center downtown is shown as the pinpoint location on a map on the Hammerfest facebook page; however, the Basque Center also confirms it is not renting out its facilities to this group.
It remains unclear why the Treasure Valley is the chosen location for this event. KTVB's attempts to contact the group's local chapters and record label have gone unanswered.