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Punks Against Drinking and Drugs

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Mirror, mirror on the wall, what is the most violent gang of all? You could have fooled me. Who knew there was a gang of punk rockers who subscribe to a credo of no drugs and no alcohol and yet have no problem with violence?

Straight Edge, a movement that, on its face, is a parent’s dream: Its adherents abstain from alcohol, drugs and smoking. But Straight Edge also has been linked to domestic terror groups by the FBI and is labeled a gang by police in Utah. With its recent revival, the movement is worrying a whole new generation of Utah parents.

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I’ve read the long article twice now and still don’t understand this group.

To its defenders, Straight Edge is a mostly positive movement centered on the hard-core punk music scene, an outlet for creative, sometimes shy kids who are resisting the glorification of drugs and alcohol. ….In the late 1990s, according to police, members of Straight Edge in the Salt Lake Valley firebombed a McDonald’s, a mink- feed cooperative and a leather- supply store, and committed at least one murder, the beating death of a 15-year-old Latino high schooler with a baseball bat.

Here’s some recent examples of the group’s violence:

Among the recent incidents linked by police to the movement are a shooting between a Straight Edge gang and a rival early this year; a recent beating of two teenagers that may be prosecuted as a hate crime; and a car chase in November involving at least 20 Straight Edge members who used baseball bats and a crowbar to destroy a rival’s car. Some punk bands from other cities refuse to play Salt Lake venues for fear they’ll be attacked. At a punk concert in January 2005 and another at Halloween, bands were beaten by Straight Edge attendees. “If you talk to their victims, they describe it as being attacked by a bunch of piranhas. They see blood in the water, and everyone goes after it,” said Detective Jeremy Nelson of the Ogden Police Department’s gang task force.

While so far police say the Straight Edge folks in Denver and Boulder are non-violent, let’s hope they don’t bring their concerts to Denver:

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The dance style at Salt Lake’s Straight Edge concerts looks like a mock street fight. At a recent concert in a Salt Lake City parking lot headlined by the local band Cherem, dancers punched one another and performed roundhouse kicks. Some were tossed into benches and flower beds. One was briefly knocked out after being kicked in the head. …”It’s kind of a rush. When I’m in the (mosh) pit, I don’t remember very much. It’s an altered state,” said Jordan Lund, a 17-year-old Straight Edge member from North Ogden. “Whether you’re getting hit or hitting other people, it’s fun,” said Lund, whose nose has a visible curve from two breaks suffered at Straight Edge concerts.

If you ask me, these kids need a drink. Maybe it would mellow them out.

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