Veterans group calls for stronger law enforcement action against neo-Nazis in New England
A veterans group is calling on law enforcement across New England to take a harder stance against a neo-Nazi organization that has targeted Jewish, Black and LGBTQ communities in the region.
The Task Force Butler Institute, a self described anti-fascist research group made up of U.S. military vets, released a 300-page report Tuesday documenting acts of violence carried out in recent years by the Nationalist Social Club-131, or NSC-131. The Anti-Defamation League describes NSC-131 as "a neo-Nazi group with small, autonomous regional chapters."
Kris Goldsmith, an Iraq war veteran and founder of the nonprofit research organization Task Force Butler, said the group shared the report with law enforcement officials with one goal in mind.
"We hope that with 300 pages of evidence of violent hate crimes across four different states, that attorneys general, districts attorneys across various states and counties and cities will work together and treat NSC-131 like what it is — a violent gang — and get creative," he said. "Use things like racketeering laws to dismantle them, charge them with hate crimes."
Last year, NSC-131 hung a sign at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston that read “Keep Boston Irish.”
New England actions by the group also include a fight that broke out during a NSC-131 protest last July outside of a drag story hour near the Loring Greenough House in Jamaica Plain, one of eight violent acts outlined in the report. The report points to a more recent NSC-131 disruption in downtown Portland, Maine on April 1 when members of the group paraded through the area making Nazi salutes and engaging in fights with counter-protesters.
Task Force Butler veterans say charges filed in New Hampshire against the group in January are a step in the right direction. New Hampshire Attorney General John M. Formella charged the group and two of its leaders with violating the state's Civil Rights Act and conspiring to violate the New Hampshire Civil Rights Act after posting a banner over an overpass that read "Keep New England white."
In interviews with GBH News last year, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins argued that NSC-131 should be classified as a street gang.
The veterans group says that, among its priorities, is investigating white supremacists who have joined the ranks of the U.S. military, as documented by FBI arrest records of those who took part in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Task Force Butler researchers identified at least seven members and affiliates of NSC-131 as military veterans.
The report is not for public consumption is being made available as a source of information for local, state and federal officials, news organizations and research groups focused on right-wing extremism.
"Most of the evidence that we have gathered has been posted by NSC-131 themselves," Goldsmith said. "They have been operating throughout New England in what they feel to be such a permissive environment that they videotape their violent hate crimes. And really, honestly, so far, their behavior of years of posting criminal activity online and not having law enforcement seem to act on it, they have reason to feel invincible."
Goldsmith said the reason that he and other veterans are involved with exposing far-right extremism is because of their "commitment to democracy."
"We recognize that people respect the platform that we have, and that is why we are leveraging our veterans status to say we served our country and we are continuing to serve our country here at home in what is at least, speaking for myself, having served in Iraq, in a mission that is in every way much more aligned with defending democracy than anything I ever did in uniform."