Riot at the British Invasion: A Photo Essay by Eric Rife

THE RECAP

“Fuck White Power! Fuck White Power!”

The visceral chant went up minutes prior to the Total Chaos’ set on the outdoor stage at the 2006 British Invasion, a megapunkapalooza featuring nearly two dozen bands. And somewhere beneath the swirling mass of mohawks, liberty spikes and fists were two pseudo Nazi knuckleheads whose inflammatory rhetoric was being answered with a barrage of studded belts… and at least one knife.

The show started ominously enough at the Orange Pavilion in a rather dusty neighborhood of San Bernardino. Hundreds of kids bided their time in the parking lot, quaffing cases of Pabst, Bud, Guinness and even peach schnapps. Empties were strewn across the pavement, waiting to be crushed by leaving cars or later, thrown by opportunistic kids.

Two stages – one outdoor, featuring American bands and the other, indoors, hosting the British headliners – were in full force with Naked Aggression, Final Conflict, Funeral Dress, the Varukers and others grinding out sweet memories for the smattering of aging punks and the multitudes of young kids not yet born when the scheduled headliners first took a stage in the U.S.

But GBH, the Adicts and Vice Squad, three bands whose careers were born on the 1981 hardcore compilation Punk and Disorderly, would never take the stage.

According to news reports the next day, two men had reportedly been trying to intimidate a group of kids with racist slogans and gestures. As if being a white supremacist isn’t dumb enough, it was obvious to all but the most intellectually challenged that the rest of the crowd – which was easily fifty percent Hispanic – had the upper hand. Studded belts came off, a knife was pulled and suddenly the crypto-fascists were in a fight for their lives. Stepping into the fray to rescue them were security guards who were, you guessed it, African American, Latino American and Asian American. Both were taken to area hospitals in critical condition, one with a serious knife wound to the neck.

Total Chaos had the plug pulled halfway through their set. There was, for about fifteen minutes, general chaos outside the main hall, but many people, assuming the situation had played itself out, went inside to catch the rest of the show. The Varukers were still working their way through a brilliant set, oblivious to the melee outside.

In the meantime, San Bernardino police officers (whose presence before the show was significant) received a call about a stabbing near the entrance. When they arrived to evacuate the stabbing victim(s), hundreds of punks turned on them, forcing a temporary retreat. When the cops returned, it was with overwhelming force backed up by helicopters, tear gas and three other police departments. Broken Bones, who had been playing for about twenty minutes, were ordered to stop when the promoter took the stage and told them the show was over. Security guards, manning the pit area in front of the stage, yelled at each other that it was time to go.

Then came the tear gas. As the noxious clouds began rolling inside, kids screamed and ran for the doors. Vendors, surrounded with thousands of dollars in merchandise, were especially fucked. No one wanted to move and abandon their stock to a crowd of people who were increasingly determined to take their revenge… on the Pavilion and neighboring businesses.

Outside the air was filled with flying bottles and other trash missiles, ostensibly aimed at the venue and the cops. For those simply trying to get to their cars, the obstacle course was doubly dangerous – riot cops, armed to the teeth with truncheons, assault rifles and rubber bullets were trying to regain control over the parking lot, while beer bottles were landing indiscriminately, often hitting other punks and cars.

The scene outside the parking lot was worse – trash dumpsters were set on fire, local store fronts were smashed and a Jack In The Box was practically leveled while the minimum wage staff huddled inside, terrified.

The next day, www.youtube.com, featured homemade videos and commentary on the riot. Predictably, several kids who had taken part, hailed the supposed merits of the destruction. And while no one was sympathetic to the racist assholes that were beaten to within an inch of their lives (or those cops who took the opportunity to settle some scores), older and wiser souls castigated the naive, taking them to task for putting future punk shows in serious doubt.

THE PHOTOS

Funeral Dress

Naked Aggression

Naked Aggression

The Varukers

The Varukers

Resilience

Resilience

Resilience

Red Alert

Final Conflict

Resilience

Resilience

Broken Bones

Broken Bones

Naked Aggression

The Varukers

The Varukers

Red Alert

Bang Sugar Bang

Bang Sugar Bang

Total Chaos

Broken Bones

Broken Bones