A walk through the front door at the Rock of Ages record shop on Ford Road in suburban Garden City produces no shocks or surprises. CDs by such edgy acts as Insane Clown Posse and Marilyn Manson line shelves alongside classic rockers like Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones.
However, local anti-racist activists accuse the store of doing an underground trade in racist, white power recordings they say are kept behind the counter and are made available upon request.
Ali Moosavi, a member of the Detroit chapter of Anti-Racist Action (ARA), says the group has held protests at the store for the past two months.
ARA is an anti-Nazi, anti-Klan organization with 150 chapters in North America, many of which have been involved in street confrontations with violent, far-right groups.
"This isnt a free speech issue," Moosavi contends. "Theres a correlation between white power and overt acts of violence." He cites the shootings in Littleton, Colo., the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Jasper, Texas, dragging death as examples of tragedies where perpetrators were influenced by fascist ideology.
ARA is encouraging a boycott of Rock of Ages until owner Bob Farsakian agrees to remove the items the group says are offensive to the multiethnic character of the metro Detroit community.
For his part, Farsakian remains unmoved by the demands and says the protesters "are a joke."
He admits to having white power recordings in stock, but insists they represent less than 1 percent of his stock. "Sales are minimal," he says, "and sell to the same select handful over and over."
As an independent record store owner, he says, demand determines what he sells. He admits some bands like Rahowa (which stands for Racial Holy War) are offensive, which is why they are kept behind the counter.
"If I stop carrying those, then someone will want to get rid of satanic music, then rap will be out," he predicts, "then Gothic, then Ozzie and AC-DC. Ill turn into a mall store or a Wal-Mart."
Farsakian, who contends his Armenian background gives him a sensitivity to issues of discrimination and genocide, has listened to classic skinhead bands like Skrewdriver and says, "Maybe Im naive, but I dont understand why such a big deal is being made."
ARAs Moosavi thinks Farsakian is naive. "The people that put out white power records arent just musicians," he argues. "Theyre building a racist movement. Bands from Rage Against the Machine on the left to racist bands on the right know that music is a way to reach youth."
The ARA boycott is continuing and Rock of Ages is bracing for another protest demonstration June 6 at 1 p.m. At a May 16 demonstration, Moosavi and another ARA member were arrested for trespassing on a complaint by Farsakian. The store owner charges that the group has passed out slanderous leaflets about him and spray painted his establishment.
"Im sticking to my guns," he says. "Im protected by the First Amendment."
Moosavi denies his group had anything to do with the vandalism and promises the protests will continue until the hate music is removed. He warns, "Fascism came to power in Germany because people ignored it."
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.