A run-in with a neo-Nazi on the Lakefront Trail

[flickr]photo:5936962475[/flickr]

Many years ago I was riding my bicycle on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, rolling south past Oak Street Beach, near the Hancock Tower. It was a beautiful summer day and the path was really crowded with people walking, jogging and cycling. I was working as a bike messenger at the time.

As I was riding I saw this guy heading towards me. He was this tall, brawny skinhead on Rollerblades, skating north. He was wearing wraparound sunglasses and a t-shirt that said “WHITE POWER” with a big swastika on it. I myself had a shaved head and I was wearing wraparound shades at the time, but I’m a short, skinny Jew.

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I crossed paths with this guy and it took a moment for the significance of his t-shirt to register, but a few seconds afterwards I thought to myself, “I’ve got to say something to him.” So I did a U-turn on the path and rode up alongside him and said something kind of lame to him like, “You know, I really don’t appreciate you wearing that t-shirt on the Lakefront Trail.”

He replied in a deep, monotone, robotic voice, “Thank you. I value your opinion.” That must be his stock phrase for when people confront him, and it was pretty effective. I was actually pretty freaked out and I immediately slammed on the brakes and did another U-turn without looking. The path was really crowded, so I almost got killed doing that. I looked behind me and the skinhead was silently skating off into the distance. It was a very sinister experience.

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John Greenfield

John has lived in Chicago since 1989 and has worked a number of bicycle jobs, from messenger to mechanic to managing the Chicago Department of Transportation's bicycle parking program, arranging the installation of over 3,700 bike racks. He writes regularly for Time Out Chicago, Newcity, Momentum and Urban Velo magazines and works at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square.

8 thoughts on “A run-in with a neo-Nazi on the Lakefront Trail”

  1. i noticed your links to chicago bike laws and lawyer jim freeman. he helped me a couple years ago. he’s the man.

  2. At least you didn’t crash into him – that might have been more awkward, but quite probable on the busy Lakefront Trail.

    Was this guy getting looks from other trail users?

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