MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - A former neo-Nazi shared his story in Minneapolis Thursday in an attempt to stop others from going down the same path.
Christian Picciolini talked with more than 200 people at Temple Israel and earlier in the day at Southwest High School, outlining his life as a member of multiple hate groups starting in the 1980s.
He was just 14 years old, lonely and bullied, when he was recruited by a neighbor, hoping to find meaning by being a part of something bigger than himself.
"What got me involved is the same fundamental need that every young person experiences," Picciolini said. "He said if you come with me I'll give you ... an identity. You'll be welcome in this community and you'll be saying something that's very important."
That message, though he didn't know it at the time, was white supremacy.
Picciolini formed one of the country's first "white power" bands, and recruited other vulnerable, angry young people through his music. Eventually he opened a record store and started to meet the people he had been marginalizing for years.
"I started to realize we had more similarities than differences," he said. "We had the same fundamental needs and challenges and the only way we were going to make it was together."
He left the neo-Nazi movement and started a foundation called "Life After Hate," dedicating his new life to educating the public about what appeals to young people about hate groups--and how to get them out.
He now travels the country, talking to community members and young people about his experiences.
"I know I planted a lot of seeds of hate," Picciolini said. "I'm still pulling the weeds up from those seeds I planted."