There was a time in the 80’s where a phenomenon known as the Satanic Panic occurred. In Dale City, Virginia it was led by Investigator Lupton. He had appeared in newspaper articles to condemn anyone who listened to punk and heavy metal as Satanic, and had named The Outcasts, a gang of punks and metalheads I and a friend had started. The Outcasts were the natural by-product of people who were different trying to defend themselves from random attacks by hanging out in groups. Lupton’s actions gave “normal” people a green light to fuck with us by demonizing us.
This was also during the time of the P.M.R.C.-The Parent Music Resource Center, led by Al Gore’s wife, Tipper Gore. The P.M.R.C. was leading a censorship campaign against punk, metal, and rap groups that almost cost some musicians their careers. The media, politicians, and “occult experts” like Lupton were using the police and the court of public opinion to come down on anyone who was different. Some kids were forcefully taken from their homes for re-education with their parents consent. Organizations were created that advised and helped parents send their children away. Their records, clothes, and anything having to do with this music was destroyed. They would be forced to get haircuts and sent to places like Provo, Utah, to take hardcore survival classes or to work.
It was during this time that I was kicked out of my house for having a mohawk. To be fair, I was given the choice of cutting it off, or leaving. I figured if my hair was enough to make my parent’s love for a 16 year old conditional, then fuck them.
As to the media campaign against us, I was tired of the misinformation being presented, and I was sick of conflict every day. Many of us were homeless kids who had left bad situations or were kicked out. Many just felt alienated. I wanted to confront the beast head on, but just defending ourselves to a cop down at the station after being hauled in wasn’t going to change anything. I wanted a way to address the public.
The first time I had the chance was when myself and the co-founder of The Outcasts were interviewed for the Potomac News. The headline ran, “Punks March To Different Drummer.” I was disappointed with the overall article, as it skipped the meat of what we said and dumbed things down. I O.K.’d the article anyway, knowing it was a lost cause and not wanting to jeopardize getting a few of our views out. The article ignored that we had founded The Outcasts, never mentioning the name, instead focusing on us wanting to be left alone. It made the front page and sold out.
The second chance came when I saw an advertisement for a community meeting on youth. I went by myself, my mohawk standing tall, with The Outcasts scrawled across the back of my leather jacket in white paint. I was the only kid there. I sat in the front row, doubting the wisdom of my decision to sit with my back to the crowd, as I could not see their responses to things said. I wanted desperately to change minds and find a way to work with some kind of authority outside of the police, knowing that if we had that we could take on the corrupt cops or at least limit their power.
A lady was leading the meeting, and after a brief introduction she called on Investigator Lupton. I had no clue that he was there and cringed at his name as he stood up, balding and arrogant, before going into his usual tirade.
“We’ve got a real problem with kids into heavy metal and punk music, because of the ties to Satanism.”
I couldn’t take it. I wasn’t going to let him get away unchallenged, so I raised my hand, turning to face him, immediately drawing everyone’s attention and drawing murmurs from the crowd.
I saw his face fall as the lady called on me. I stood up and looked him in the eye, addressing him directly.
“You’re always talking about kids being into Satanism, or the music they listen to, or the way they dress. All you are doing is pointing fingers, closing the doors you say you want opened.” Of course he had never said he wanted doors opened, but I knew that would put him on the defensive, because it should have been the goal.
To my surprise people were nodding in agreement. I turned my attention from him and to the crowd, effectively cutting Lupton out of the conversation. I told them that I did not want to work against them, but with them to solve some of these problems, and then sat down, sweating and nervous, wondering what Lupton or others would say. People who spoke thanked me for coming and agreed that we had to work together. Lupton remained silent.
When the meeting ended with no solutions presented, I stood up and looked for Lupton, but he was nowhere to be found. An exhilarating feeling of victory came over me, and for the first time I believed something could change.
The leaders of the meeting came and thanked me for coming. They asked where I could be reached and promised to call me for the next meeting, so I gave them a reliable number.
I never got that call.