National News

Former Skinhead promotes peace after incident in Charlottesville

Posted August 15

— Voices of unity are speaking up. A metro Atlanta woman, a former Skinhead, tells CBS46 about the divisions that drove her as a teen, and now her commitment to peace.

The former Skinhead, Shannon Martinez, calls it life after hate, all of this after the deadly incident in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Marks on her right leg gives away her past.

"I'm a former white nationalist skinhead," says Martinez.

She sat down in a one-on-one interview with CBS46 to discuss her past as a Skinhead, and her present as a voice of unity and peace.

This, following the deadly incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, that some believe may have been promoted by race.

"It's just unacceptable," says Martinez. "This is supposed to be the land of the free."

The 43-year-old joined Skinhead Organization as a teen after being sexually assaulted, she says, and feeling she never met her parents expectations.

"I hated myself, I hated everybody, and so it wasn't a huge leap to then say, well, I hate black people, I hate Jews, I hate brown people, I hate all non-white people," says Martinez. "In fact, it was almost like a relief."

Martinez believes one of the reasons people get involved in white nationalists groups is due to a sense of vulnerability.

"There's been some sense of disempowerment, disenfranchisement, coupled with trauma is what draws people at first," she says.

Photos of Martinez in her youth shows her giving Nazi salutes with Nordic cross signs on her body. Similar signs were seen in Charlottesville, Virginia, when 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed after a car rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters gathering to oppose a "Unite the Right" rally of white nationalists and other right-wing groups.

"It breaks me, I've cried very much over the last couple of days," says Martinez.

Combating violence like this, Martinez says, is why she became an activist, helping members quite groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and Skinheads. She's part of a Facebook group called "Life After Hate."

Martinez says she left the Skinheads behind because of the love of her family.

Copyright 2017 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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