The racist vandalism found on a mural in Nashua earlier this month left a clear impression on Tom Lopez.
“This was a provocative message meant to make people feel unsafe and threatened,” said Lopez, a Nashua city alderman.
The cluster of spray-painted stenciled messages - “Keep New England White,” “Death to Israel,” and “Defend New England” - are the work of the Nationalist Social Club, which took credit on Telegram, a social media platform frequented by white supremacist and other hate groups.
Lopez says the messages were spray painted on a popular mural along a bike trail in the city’s Ward 4, an economically and culturally diverse neighborhood. A recruitment message was also graffitied on a nearby dumpster, and stickers bearing the group’s name have also popped up around Nashua.
“This is not a new phenomenon,” said Lopez, who helped paint over the vandalism. “This race-baiting, this hatred, this bigotry, it’s been going on for several years now.”
While the recent racist graffiti captured broader attention in the state, the Nationalist Social Club, or NSC, is just one example of a handful of hate groups with a presence in New Hampshire. Experts say that, in the wake of the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, many of these groups have been looking to recruit new members and gain wider attention for their views, both in New Hampshire and nationally.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremism online, there are six active hate groups in the state. Patriot Front, which espouses similar Neo-Nazi rhetoric to NSC, operates within New Hampshire, as do two anti-Muslim groups, Act for America and Jihad Watch. The Southern Poverty Law Center also says the American Nazi Party is active locally. The Southern Poverty Law Center also says the American Nazi Party is active locally. It also designates the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an organization rejected by the Roman Catholic Church, that operates in Richmond, New Hampshire, as a hate group.
Seeking Attention, New Members
The NSC, the group behind the racist messages in Nashua, “espouses racism, antisemitism and intolerance via the Internet, propaganda distributions and the use of graffiti,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. The NSC first emerged in late 2019, and is active in New England as well as in France, Hungary and Germany. In March, the group announced via social media that it would only recognize chapters within New England states.
“They see themselves as these soldiers at war with this hostile Jewish controlled system that’s plotting against the white race,” said Carla Hill, associate director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism. “So they are standing up for the white race, and their turf, so to speak, New England."
Hill says the group likely has just a few dozen members at most, with its core group of supporters in eastern Massachusetts.
Along with spray-painted messages, the group has staged small rallies across the region since forming, including a display last weekend at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston.
“The strategy is to gain attention,” said Hill. After stenciling messages or slapping stickers around a community, the group will often post videos of their actions on Telegram in an effort to grow their membership.
It isn’t clear how many members of the group may live in New Hampshire.
After Lopez alerted his state representative Manny Espitia about the vandalism, Espitia posted about the incident on social media, writing, “Don’t ever tell me racism doesn’t exist in NH.” Days later, the NSC responded on Telegram, posting a series of messages aimed at Espitia, who is Latino.
“Manny Espitia - for the duration of your stay here you’ll come to find the Granite State is EXTREMELY racist,” the group posted over the weekend.
Active Across New England
Nashua Police say they aren’t aware of any other reports of anti-Semitic or hateful vandalism, and don’t have any suspects at this time. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office is also investigating the incident and threat made to Espitia as a possible hate crime.
“They are just trying to spread their message of hate,” Espitia told NHPR. “Folks in New Hampshire are not down for that.”
The racist and anti-Semitic threats in Nashua come following a series of other visible actions taken by NSC members across New England during the past year. In March, members of the group staged a rally in Brattleboro, Vt., where they carried signs and reportedly shouted racist messages. Last summer, members of the group waived a flag with a Nazi-related symbol outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston, according to the Boston Globe.
In April, Andrew Hazelton, a member of the NSC from Portland, Maine, was arrested on child pornography charges.
Members of the group also appear to have participated in the insurrection at the U.S Capitol, though it isn’t clear any entered the building, according to Hill. She added the group’s members are likely not supporters of former President Donald Trump. “They think the Jews control everything, no matter which party is in office. And they don’t like either one.”
Editor's Note: This story was updated to note that the Diocese of Manchester does not recognize the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a Catholic organization.