by Kathryn Carley, Commonwealth News Service
Incidents involving white supremacist propaganda reached an all-time high last year in the U.S., including a dramatic surge of incidents across New England.
White nationalist and neo-Nazi groups publicly marched, gathered and displayed hateful rhetoric in Boston, and beyond with some 465 incidents recorded in Massachusetts alone.
Peggy Shukur, New England interim regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said some hate groups are recruiting new members through often deceptive tactics.
“One group, Patriot Front, uses the Stars and Stripes to appear to be a mainstream group when instead they are a group that is virulently antisemitic and racist,” Shukur explained.
In addition to the group’s march through Boston Commons last July, groups also targeted bookstores, libraries, theaters and even hospitals with racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-LGBTQ messages. Shukur pointed out the incidents are being carried out by a small number of people having an outsized impact.
Researchers said the groups are increasingly moving from online forums to in-person gatherings, including on highway overpasses.
Shukur noted Massachusetts, known as the cradle of liberty, provides a dramatic flourish for hate groups to utilize, but she added communities are increasingly countering the hate with support for those being targeted.
“If your community instead comes out and said, ‘we are with you, we see you’, that’s a really powerful message,” Shukur emphasized.
Shukur stressed it is not recommended to engage or confront hate groups but the Anti-Defamation League encourages the public to report any incidents in an effort to hold them accountable.