White supremacist propaganda incidents in Massachusetts more than quadrupled in 2019

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Robert Trestan

BOSTON–White supremacist propaganda distribution more than doubled in 2019 over the previous year, making it the highest year on record for such activity in the United States, according to new data released by the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL.

The data shows a substantial increase of incidents both on- and off-campus. A total of 2,713 cases of literature distribution – an average of more than four per day – were reported nationwide, compared to 1,214 in 2018.

Every state except Hawaii reported at least one incident of white supremacist propaganda, with the highest activity reported in California, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Washington and Florida. ADL’s H.E.A.T. Map provides a visual representation of the propaganda distribution efforts by geographic location.

Every New England state reported at least a doubling of white supremacist propaganda incidents. In Massachusetts, 148 incidents of white supremacist propaganda were recorded, compared to only 35 incidents in 2018, followed by Vermont (81 incidents in 2019, compared to 14 in 2018), New Hampshire (30 incidents in 2019, compared to 3 in 2018), and Rhode Island (10 incidents in 2019, compared to 4 in 2018).

White supremacist propaganda incidents on campus have also increased. Thirty incidents of white supremacist propaganda were recorded in Massachusetts in 2019, compared to 8 incidents in 2018; 9 Incidents in New Hampshire compared with 0 in 2018; 2 incidents in Rhode Island compared with 0 in 2018; 9 incidents in Vermont compared with 6; and 1 incident in Maine as compared with 0 in 2018.

“Our data clearly demonstrates that white supremacists are doubling down on the distribution of propaganda across the U.S. and in our region, with a particular focus on campuses and the public square,” said Robert Trestan, ADL New England Regional Director. By injecting a barrage of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ fliers, stickers, banners and posters into the public square and on campus, white supremacists are attempting to normalize their messages of bigotry and to bolster recruitment, all while hiding behind the cloak of anonymity, never having to face the consequences of their hate and intolerance.”

Some key data points from ADL’s Center on Extremism:

  • Approximately 630 incidents were reported on college and university campuses, nearly double the 320 campus incidents reported nationwide in 2018. Campus incidents accounted for one-quarter of the total incidents of white supremacist propaganda distribution nationwide.
  • White supremacists targeted a total of 433 campuses in 43 states and the District of Columbia in 2019.
  • During the 2019 fall semester, ADL counted 410 incidents on campus – more than double any proceeding semester and a 159 percent increase from the 158 incidents reported during the 2019 spring semester.
  • ADL documented 2,083 off-campus incidents in 2019 – a 133 percent increase from the 894 off campus incidents counted in 2018.
  • ADL documented 20 percent fewer white supremacist events in 2019 than 2018, down from 95 to 76 events. The number of flash demonstrations also declined – dropping from 43 to 26 year over year.

The Perpetrators

Dozens of white supremacist groups distributed propaganda last year, but three groups – Patriot FrontAmerican Identity Movement and the New Jersey European Heritage Association – were responsible for approximately 90 percent of the activity.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of all propaganda incidents were attributed to the Texas-based Patriot Front (67 percent of non-campus and 59 percent of on-campus), far more than any other group. In 2019, the group used its traditional red, white and blue color-schemed propaganda but with new messages such as “One Nation Against Invasion,” “For the Nation Against the State” and “America is Not for Sale.” Patriot Front is known to use its own version of “patriotism” to promote white supremacist and neo-fascist ideology.

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