The following is an excerpt from the book No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens by Amy Yates Wuelfing and Steven DiLodovico. All photos by Ken Salerno
Leeway/Ripping Corpse December 30, 1990
Travis Nelson (Inspecter 7, vocals): That’s when Joe Rowan got stabbed.
Steven DiLodovico: The only thing I remember about this show was the huge fucking skinhead riot outside. Some Nazis showed up, but not enough. I have never seen anything so violent in my life.
Travis Nelson: I used to talk to Joe a lot in the parking lot of City Gardens. We used to hang out. Joe was who he was. The Trenton skins knew him. Everybody kind of knew him through connections in our lives. He would talk to me because I was cool with the Trenton skins. Joe was a pretty prominent white-power skinhead at the time. He was the singer of Nordic Thunder, which was a white-power band. He didn’t hide it back then. Probably about a week before that incident, I had debate with him. I said, “Hey, you got all this stuff on your jacket—all these swastikas and other assorted symbols—and yet, here you are with me, chilling out in the parking lot, drinking a beer… Not only am I not white, I am your worst nightmare. I’m mixed. I’m everything you supposedly stand against.” He gave me the, “Oh, well you’re different… You’re cool,” response. And I said, “Well, by saying that, you’re taking me on an individual basis… you’re kind of flushing your philosophy down the toilet, don’t you think?” We debated for another 20 minutes. Glaring contradictions kept coming up in what he was saying, but… a lot of times, with that whole white power thing, I don’t think the people even believe it. I think, for a lot of them, it was just something they were looking to belong to. A lot of them were intelligent enough to see the glaring contradictions, and yet they were still involved. I said to Joe, “You see what’s been going on around here. Be careful.” I didn’t mean it as a threat. I meant it as a warning.
Jamie Davis (City Gardens regular): That’s [the show] where the Nazis got it pretty bad. It started as two guys doing a fair fight outside the back door where the alley is.
Travis Nelson: Joe and another guy fought. They got into it one-on-one in the parking lot. And it was a good fight! The security guards didn’t even break it up. It was a good five- or ten- minute fight, they were rubbing each other’s faces in the pavement! All the people that wanted to fuck the Nazis up were standing around in a circle, watching.
Jamie Davis: People were like, “Fuck this!” and everyone jumped in. All hell broke loose. The Nazis ran for their car, and then the whole place— hundreds of people—started throwing things at their car… and there was plenty of stuff to throw in that parking lot. All the windows were broken. Some people got stabbed.
Travis Nelson: Everyone was there. DMS was there, Tri-State was there, Hate Squad was there. Everyone was there.
Steven DiLodovico: Out in the parking lot, it was chaos. I saw one anti-white power dude beating a Nazi with what looked like a piece of garden hose. The Nazi was kind of slumped on his knees, and the dude kept smacking him in the face.
Travis Nelson: Suddenly, there was a loud, open-handed slap being dealt [to one of the Nazis] that literally lifted this kid off of his seat. Two of them made a break for it, trying to get back to the building.
Jamie Davis: Eventually the Nazis made it to their car and tried to drive out. It was a white Honda, if I remember correctly.
Travis Nelson: The driver hunkered down while his car was dismantled by this fucking crowd. When it was over, his car looked like it had rolled down a hill 20 times. He tried to get out of there, but you heard all the tires deflate as people were puncturing his tires with knives and shit.
Jamie Davis: The crowd absolutely destroyed the car… every bit of glass was smashed, all four tires were slashed. In their panic, they were gunning the engine and the rims kept spinning on the gravel and shooting up sparks.
Travis Nelson: When all was said and done, everyone walked away after they got bored of pummeling this guy in his car. The guy gets out and starts walking around his car, and he’s like, “Holy shit, holy shit,” looking at his car. And—like he needed any more aggravation after what had just happened—my friend E-Rail rolls up to him and is like, “COME ON, MOTHERFUCKER!” The driver dropped to his knees and started begging for mercy. He’s like, “Please, I got kids! I’m not white power. I was just with them…” E-Rail said, “Yeah, you’re not white power. You’re just a white pussy.” He walked off and left him. I don’t remember cops coming, either, at least not for a while. They didn’t come during the fight, and it was a pretty good, long one-on-one fight. I do know a couple of them went to the hospital, though.
Steven DiLodovico: All the tires were slashed. It made this god-awful noise when they tried to put the car in reverse; it almost exploded. Somebody threw a big hunk of cinderblock or something through the windshield. The tires were completely gone, and they were trying to get out on the rims.
Travis Nelson: The next day, in the newspaper, it was the funniest fucking thing. The reporters were so confused. To them—to the media— “skinhead” automatically meant “Nazi.” They were so baffled. It was like, “So…some skinheads got stabbed by a bunch of guys who said they were skinheads…” They didn’t get it. To them, all skinheads were racists. The article said something like, “The real skinheads… (they saw the Nazis as being ‘real’ skinheads) were stabbed by a bunch of guys ‘dressed’ as skinheads.” It was ridiculous. I remember cracking up at their total confusion and the fact that it wound up in the newspaper.
From the Trenton Times article dated January 1, 1991:
Detective Sgt. Robert Tedder said the victims, Joseph Rowan and Patrick Barkley, both of Newtown, told police their alleged assailants were “skinheads.” But, said Tedder, the term may merely have described their appearance, not an affiliation with the racist group of that name. Witnesses said both the victims, who denied making racist remarks, and their attackers were white. Typically, skinheads have shaved or nearly shaved heads, wear billowing fatigue pants tucked in black military jump boots and favor tattoos, Schroeder said. Authentic skinheads are blatantly racist in their violence, he said. “They’re basically a group of young men who believe in white supremacy.” said Schroeder, noting they are usually associated with such groups as the Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nation. But, Schroeder said, the only skinhead group known in New Jersey was based near the Shore.