An annual report from the Anti-Defamation League shows white supremacist propaganda activity soared to an all-time high nationally and across New England last year, with New Hampshire seeing a 383 percent year-over-year increase.
New Hampshire towns and cities in the Seacoast and Strafford County, as well as in southern Maine, have recently wrestled with an influx of hateful activity in their communities, and each state in New England reportedly saw a rise in such activity in 2022. Connecticut is not included in the ADL’s assessment of white supremacist propaganda activity in New England.
In the Granite State last year, there were 183 recorded incidents, with 13 Seacoast-area communities — Exeter, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Hampton Beach, North Hampton, Rye Beach, New Castle, Portsmouth, Newington, Newmarket, Durham, Dover and Somersworth — totaling 61 combined incidents, according to ADL’s Hate, Extremism, Antisemitism, Terrorism Map.
Maine saw 30 incidents, a 50 percent increase over the prior year, with five incidents combined in Kittery, Berwick, York and Kennebunk.
Across America in 2022, there were 6,751 incidents that the ADL recorded, a 38 percent increase over 2021. The five states that make up the organization’s New England territory (Connecticut is not included) saw a collective 96 percent increase in recorded propaganda activity.
According to the ADL, propaganda activities in New England included gatherings by white supremacists with antisemitic, racist, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ+ messages at local bookstores, libraries, theaters, shelters and hospitals.
“White supremacist propaganda has the dual and devious purpose to intimidate specific groups and lure others to join their hateful activities,” said Peggy Shukur, interim regional director of ADL New England. “Too many of these groups have set New England as their home base. With deliberation and intention, they target their hate against Jewish, Black, Muslim and LGBTQ+ communities and non-white immigrants through despicable and disruptive stunts on freeway overpasses and public events, including the St. Patrick’s Day parade [in Boston].”
With a total of 465 incidents, Massachusetts was second in the nation last year in recorded propaganda activities, trailing only Texas. Rhode Island registered 142 incidents, a 74 percent year-over-year increase, while Vermont had 131 incidents, a 6 percent increase from 2022, according to the report.
“ADL’s Center on Extremism tracked a myriad of propaganda activity last year, including the mass distribution of antisemitic, racist and anti-LGBTQ+ fliers; the dissemination of stickers, banners, graffiti and posters; hateful laser projections on buildings and stadiums and in-person white supremacist gatherings, among other events,” the organization stated in a news release.
The ADL found propaganda activity happened in every state last year except Hawaii.
“While their message and their faces are often intentionally disguised, their goal is to inspire and incite people to act. In the face of ever increasing propaganda activities in the region, we have witnessed communities uniting throughout New England to reject this hate,” Shukur said. “We also welcome efforts to hold these groups accountable for the harm they inflict on those targeted.”
Two hate groups in particular
The two hate groups most active across New England last year were Texas-based Patriot Front, which the ADL reports is a white supremacist group “whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it to them, and no one else,” and the Nationalist Social Club which is known as NSC-131.
Among the 951 recorded white supremacist propaganda incidents in New England last year, Patriot Front was responsible for all but 42 of them, per the ADL. The hate group, along with the Goyim Defense League and White Lives Matter, was responsible for 93 percent of all recorded propaganda activity throughout the entire country in 2022.
The ADL reports that members of the Nationalist Social Club, whose presence has increased in the Seacoast and southern Maine since 2021, “see themselves as soldiers at war with a hostile, Jewish-controlled system that is deliberately plotting the extinction of the white race.”
The Nationalist Social Club has been responsible for numerous incidents around the region, including leaving recruitment materials in neighborhoods within Kittery and Portsmouth. In December 2021, masked members of the hate group protested a drag story hour outside the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, wielding a derogatory sign about drag queens. Last year, hate group members stood outside the Kittery Trading Post with a sign reading “Keep New England White,” and last summer, hate group members hung a banner with the same message over Route 1 in Portsmouth.
After the latter incident, the state attorney general’s office announced at a January press conference in Portsmouth that two of the group’s members, including NSC-131 founder Christopher Hood, had been charged with violating New Hampshire’s Civil Rights Act.
Portsmouth investigation continues
Portsmouth sustained a barrage of hateful graffiti in and around downtown during the overnight hours of Feb. 21. Seventeen locations, including downtown businesses and Temple Israel, were targeted with hateful, spray-painted symbols, including swastikas.
A masked person, wearing a red hooded sweatshirt, khaki pants, white shoes and orange-rimmed glasses, was caught on surveillance footage going around the city between 1:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. spray painting the hateful graffiti on numerous buildings.
Police reported last week similar racist and antisemitic imagery and messaging found on a Market Street pedestrian bridge.
City police are continuing to investigate, along with the state attorney general’s office. Portsmouth police recently completed canvassing efforts with the FBI.
“We do not foresee the need to do any more canvassing,” Portsmouth detective Sgt. Kevin McCarthy, the lead investigator, said Thursday.
No charges had been filed as of Thursday.
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