WW presents “Distant Voices,” a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they’re doing during quarantine.
Anyone who thinks anti-fascists and right-wing groups only started fighting each other in the Trump era clearly didn't go to punk shows in the '80s.
Erin Yanke is among those who were there. Growing up in Northern California, she confronted neo-Nazism in her own scene, and she remembers being deeply shaken by the killing of Mulugeta Seraw in Portland by racist skinheads, even from afar.
"The idea they would not be a problem just for our scene and actually murder an immigrant was just gut wrenching at the time," she says.
The Seraw murder stayed with her when she later moved to Oregon, and it's the centerpiece of her podcast It Did Happen Here, an 11-part series charting the rise of white nationalism on the streets of Portland and the groups that formed to oppose them. She produced the show with activist Celina Flores and rapper Mic Crenshaw, who spent his youth organizing against racists in Minnesota.
In this interview with WW, Yanke, a filmmaker and KBOO DJ, explains how efforts to drive neo-Nazis out of public view in the mid-'90s ended up festering into the current white supremacist movement, and why its mainstream visibility makes the contemporary fight against it easier.
See more Distant Voices interviews here.