By Damien Fisher, InDepthNH.org
A new hate incident in Franklin, this time white racist graffiti painted on a downtown building, has city leaders searching for answers.
Mayor Jo Brown said the city’s task force to combat hate, formed after a Jewish business owner was attacked by a hate group this summer, is working to quell hate with education and positivity.
“We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it,” Brown said.
Franklin police are investigating this week’s graffiti painted on a downtown building, and Brown said the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has been involved in the investigation.
It’s not clear who was behind this week’s graffiti, Brown said. This is the second time this year that Franklin leaders have addressed hate-influenced issues. Over the summer, members of the notorious hate group NSC 131 targeted Miriam Kovacs, owner of Broken Spoon, a Jewish-Asian fusion eatery.
NSC 131, also known as the Nationalist Social Club, is a neo-Nazi hate group active in New England. The group has an active chapter in New Hampshire. For the past year, the group has harassed companies on the seashore, even threatening former Nashua State Assemblyman Manny Espitia.
State Rep. Charlotte DiLorenzo, D-Newmarket, recently spoke about receiving a racist email from another group. Attorney General John Formella is investigating an email from a man posing as the founder and president of a group called the New England White Network.
Formed in eastern Massachusetts, NSC 131 has affiliations with violent neo-Nazi groups such as The Base, Aryan Strike, and Patriot Front. The group has branches in Europe and some southern states. NSC 131 graffiti has been spotted throughout southern New Hampshire, and the group has made appearances at Nashua City Hall and Nashua School Board meetings, among others.
That summer, the group hung two banners over a motorway in Dover that read, “Keep New England white” and “Defend New England.”
The group is virulently anti-Semitic and calls for the expulsion of Jewish people from the United States. The group also calls for violence against Jews and minorities.
“110 and never again. Jews were expelled from 109 countries, making America 110. Any action nationalist will agree, 110 and never again,” wrote NSC 131 on a poster on Telegram.
According to Peggy Shukur of the Anti-Defamation League, hate incidents by extremist groups have tripled this year compared to last year.
Shukur said there’s a lot of hatred in public conversations that normalizes, and whenever there’s economic uncertainty there’s a tendency to look for a scapegoat. Shukur said this was a time when people felt encouraged to act out their hatred.
“If you see it, please report it,” Shukur said.
Franklin, the smallest town in New Hampshire, is going through a lot of changes, according to Brown. The revitalization of the city is in full swing with the opening of the wild water park, the settlement of new companies, the construction of new housing and the influx of new people.
The influx of new people means that fighting hate and stopping its spread is more important than ever for the task force.
“We have to learn to accept everyone for who they are,” Brown said.
Residents interested in contributing to the task force can contact their councilors and attend the next meeting, which is scheduled for December 14.