Exposing hate: NH officials meet with 'Nazi hunting' vets group
May 22—The head of the Attorney General's Civil Rights Unit met virtually last week with leaders of a veterans organization that exposed the activities of a neo-Nazi organization in New Hampshire and other New England states.
Kristofer Goldsmith, founder of Task Force Butler, said New Hampshire officials were the first to respond to a 308-page investigative report his group released last month about the Nationalist Social Club (NSC-131). He called it "a very positive meeting."
"It's very clear to us that the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office is really interested in combating this problem in meaningful ways," he said in a phone interview.
Members of NSC-131 hung a banner over a Portsmouth highway overpass last summer that read: "Keep New England White," an act that led the state's Department of Justice to file a civil complaint against the group and two of its members for violating the state Civil Rights Act.
Goldsmith founded Task Force Butler, a group that describes itself as "American veterans who hunt neo-Nazis."
Sean Locke, director of the AG's Civil Rights Unit, invited Goldsmith and a colleague to share information about hate groups operating here.
"The purpose of the meeting was for the Civil Rights Unit to better understand Task Force Butler's work but also, for me to detail the work that the Civil Rights Unit does to confront and address hate-motivated conduct in the Granite State," Locke said in an email.
"I encouraged members of Task Force Butler to not hesitate to report actual, planned, or threatened incidents that they may identify to ensure that the public can be protected from hate-motivated conduct to the fullest extent possible," Locke said.
Goldsmith said he offered his group's help if it uncovers additional information about NSC-131's activities here. "We want to assure them that if there are answers out there that need to be found, we will do our best to find them," he said.
Since the report's release last month, Goldsmith said his group has seen a "surge" in hate mail and threats. But he has also seen an outpouring of support for what his group is doing — and an increase in tips about extremist groups.
The Task Force Butler report points out incidents of criminal activity by members of NSC-131. And it lays out the federal and state laws the group already has broken, Goldsmith said.
Far from being a "social club," the report describes NSC-131 as a "violent terrorist gang that primarily functions to plan, train, and obtain weapons for the explicit purpose of engaging in acts of violence and harassment against religious, racial, and ethnic minorities, the LGBTQIA+ community, and others deemed 'enemies'..."
It also warns that NSC-131 "functions as part of a broader, global white supremacist terror network."
Goldsmith said New Hampshire officials clearly understood the risk posed by NSC-131. "But I do think that our report offered for them a new perspective and understanding of how virtually everything they do in New Hampshire is the result of an interstate conspiracy," he said.
"It is never just New Hampshire members who are operating in New Hampshire, targeting New Hampshire communities," he said. "It is people coming across state lines."
Task Force Butler's first report, released last fall, exposed activities by another group, Patriot Front, in Massachusetts.
Goldsmith said he hopes that New Hampshire "leading the way" in confronting NSC-131 will convince officials in other New England states to take action on hate groups. He'd also like to see a regional task force formed to share information and resources.
After the New Hampshire meeting, he was contacted by the Massachusetts Attorney General's office to discuss the NSC-131 report, Goldsmith said.
Locke, from the Civil Rights Unit, said he and the Task Force Butler members "also discussed resources and tools that are available to businesses and individuals who may be targeted by hate-motivated conduct or concerned that their events or activities may be targeted by hate-motivated conduct, such as no trespass orders and stalking petitions, and how to respond when a person witnesses potentially hate-motivated conduct in their community."
"The hope for this meeting, and engaging with Task Force Butler, just as we would any community group, is to educate but also to encourage reporting of hate-motivated activity — or frankly any unlawful activity — that may be occurring in New Hampshire," Locke said.