by Dillon Price
| 7:45 AM
It was twenty years ago when Brian Deneke, a punk rocker from Amarillo, Texas, was killed because of his lifestyle and fashion sense. I was in high school at the time and can remember the outrage that followed after the story hit national headlines. As someone who has dealt with the same type of intolerance first-hand, Deneke’s death sparked an irrefutable rage inside of me that can’t be described with words.
Following a fight that happened outside of The International House of Pancakes in Armarillo, Deneke was run over by a high school jock named Dustin Camp. But the consequences were meager. In 1999, Camp was only sentenced to five years of probation on the premise that he was an upstanding kid with a bright future. His defense attorney thus took advantage of Deneke’s appearance and lifestyle to paint him as a threat to society. In fact, Deneke’s jacket (which depicted the logo of punk band Filth and the slogan “Destroy Everything”) was used as evidence in court. In short, the judge’s decision was based on prejudice and emotion.
Two decades later, Deneke’s death was brought back into the limelight. Bomb City, directed by Jameson Brooks, recaps the events leading up to the murder of Deneke – and the staggering events that would follow. The film doesn’t portray any caliber of bias on either side, as both sides of the aisle are portrayed fairly. While Deneke, and his friends in the punk scene, may have displayed some level of rowdy and edgy behavior, the jocks were equally as blameworthy. However, the true bias comes in the form of police brutality and unfair treatment by the justice system.
Following the opening scene, Brooks unveils a side-by-side comparison between the punks and jocks. The clashing scenes depicting the aggressive nature of both sides – the adrenaline-inducing mosh pit and the bravado-fueled football game. The two groups aren’t only polar opposites, but have a history of quarrel, and in the case of Deneke and the Amarillo punks, the jocks were the instigators. The scene inside of International House of Pancakes shows the group of punks minding their own business and being subject to insults.
As someone who was a part of the punk scene during the 90s, I can directly relate to Bomb City. The problem of intolerance wasn’t just confined to Deneke and his friends, it was happening all over the country. For those who lived the punk lifestyle during that era may have been called “faggot” one too many times, and I for one, can speak from such experience. I got my first mohawk at the age of 13 – while I was in 7th grade. As a result, I got a lot of shit from the “preppy” kids in my school, and was even knocked unconscious after one of the preps paid the “toughest kid in our school” to beat me up. It wasn’t until around 10th grade when the punk and hardcore scene amassed enough kids to outnumber the jocks. And even then, it was an ongoing squabble.
In comparison to the kids involved in the punk and hardcore scene, the jocks were the bigger trouble-makers. Many of them drank heavily, got into fights, dealt drugs, abused drugs and vandalized. If that’s not bad enough, I can recall a few occasions when some of them have even committed burglary, as well as rape and sexual assault. Furthermore, there have been some occasions when groups of jocks have come into our shows just to start shit, often with the mindset that “nobody will do anything about it.” An otherwise fun show would always end in riot, resulting in the venue or rented hall permanently banning punk shows.
But the 90s was a different time. Simply being “different” would often draw scrutiny and hostility from the public. Fast forwarding 20 years later, things have changed significantly. Punk fashion is increasingly becoming integrated into pop-culture. It’s no longer taboo to see a kid walking down the street with a mohawk or green hair. Derogatory slurs, such as “faggot,” can get you publicly shamed and even ruin your chances for employment. Still, there are many ignorant people out there, but they don’t have nearly as much of a voice as they did decades ago.
As pointed out in Bomb City, Deneke’s death sheds light on a dilemma that many youth are faced with. In the film, the lawyer representing Deneke’s family says, “decisions you make will follow you for the rest of your life.” The film’s context espouses an educational element, and not just one relating to young punks, but something that all youth can learn from. It’s not uncommon for kids to make rash decisions under the influence of prejudice and emotion. Bullying or committing violence on those who are different can be permanently plastered on the internet.
In my opinion, Bomb City should be shown to youth across America. What many kids don’t realize is that the opinions and habits they currently hold may be nothing more than a memory when they reach adulthood. As someone who is only a few years away from 40, I can say that I don’t hold many of the same beliefs as I did during my youth. As much as I hated the jocks twenty years ago, I can’t say that I hold any kind of prejudice against anyone for any reason other than the merit of their individual character. Luckily, we are approaching an age where the subculture someone chooses is less likely to subject them to marginalization. In retrospect, Bomb City is a reminder of an era of intolerance. But moving forward, there is still much more to be done.
In a 2017 interview with Brooks, I was able to get more insight into the film. Now the film will be available on-demand and in select theaters.
Below you can find services that offer on-demand, as well as a list of showcases where you can watch the film. You can also watch the trailer and visit bombcityfilm.com for more info.
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