Kittery speaks out against neo-Nazi group's message of hate in town, across New England

·3 min read

KITTERY, Maine — Town leaders are taking a public stand against neo-Nazis who have been distributing recruitment materials in Kittery and around the region.

The Admiralty Village neighborhood, where shipyard workers and families have traditionally resided, was riddled recently with hundreds of flyers from a group called the Nationalist Social Club, according to Town Council chairperson Judy Spiller.

“It’s just unacceptable and particularly right now where there is so much tension and polarization,” Spiller said before the council approved a statement condemning the neo-Nazi group's efforts.

Kittery Town Council chairperson Judy Spiller.
Kittery Town Council chairperson Judy Spiller.

The Anti-Defamation League says the group “espouses racism, antisemitism and intolerance” online, and through graffiti and other propaganda. Its members "see themselves as soldiers at war with a hostile, Jewish-controlled system that is deliberately plotting the extinction of the white race.”

The neo-Nazi group formed in eastern Massachusetts in 2019, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Portsmouth: Residents alarmed by neo-Nazi recruitment flyers. Police receive many calls.

The same group was purportedly responsible for leaving the same recruitment materials earlier this month at homes in Portsmouth during overnight hours. Portsmouth residents spoke out in response, concerned they may have been targeted for distribution because they are Jewish. The neo-Nazi group also had members who showed up in person in December 2021 to rail against a drag queen story hour at Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, leading to a surge of community support and donations for the theater, which continued the story hour events.

Kittery council speaks up, raises voices against hate

The Town Council held a special meeting Monday night to respond to the flyers, listen to the public and issue a statement.

Admiralty Village resident Megan Dunn called on the Town Council to craft a statement condemning the neo-Nazi group’s recruitment efforts, bring in an expert on white supremacy to better inform the public on similar groups located within the region, and to educate the town’s youth on how to identify propaganda.

“If we have an informed community, we can stand unified together and they will know this is not a place where they are welcome and that they will feel comfortable recruiting,” Dunn said.

Lifelong Kittery resident Celestyne Fisher Bragg told the council that people can take a stand against hate speech by reporting any online versions of it and pushing back against similar speech used in literature, news media and jokes.

“I can no longer let people celebrate racism, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia and white nationalism in my presence,” Bragg said.

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Spiller read aloud a prepared Town Council statement asserting its members “strongly condemn all associated with the white supremacy movement, and anyone else who seeks to divide us in Kittery based on race, ethnicity, sex or gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, or socioeconomic status."

The Town Council approved the prepared statement.

Neo-Nazi recruitment efforts in New England growing

Robert Trestan, the Anti-Defamation League's New England director, said Monday a dozen other communities across New England have reported flyers from the neo-Nazi group in the past 10 days.

“They hide their bigotry and their hatred behind this sort of mask of being a social club, but when you assess what they stand for and what they’re pushing forward, it’s antisemitism, it’s racism and it’s white supremacy,” Trestan said.

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In Massachusetts alone in 2021, according to Trestan, there were 272 hate incidents reported to the Anti-Defamation League. This year, he said, hate incidents reported in the Bay State will likely exceed the 2021 total.

Rhode Island: In East Providence, neo-Nazis trying to recruit were not anonymous this time

Trestan said two other recognized antisemitic and white supremacist groups, the Goyim Defense League and Patriot Front, recently had masked members marching along the Freedom Trail in Boston.

“These groups are primarily responsible for almost all dissemination of white supremacy in New England,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Kittery ME condemns neo-Nazi group's message of hate, propaganda