Mass. officials ramp up efforts to combat white nationalism following rally in Jamaica Plain

Demonstrators gather at West Roxbury Courthouse on Monday, July 26, 2022, in support of two counter-protesters arrested at a neo-Nazi rally in Jamaica Plain. The charges against the two were dropped. (Molly McCaul / GBH News)

After two neo-Nazi protests in Boston in a month, Massachusetts officials are deepening their efforts to combat white nationalism.

District Attorney Kevin Hayden’s office announced that it will add two civil rights attorneys to its High Risk Victims Unit “due to recent hate-based incidents.” U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins said she will be creating a hotline in coming weeks for citizens to report white nationalist and neo-Nazi activity.

On July 23, white supremacist Nationalist Social Club-131 protested outside of a drag queen story hour event in Jamaica Plain. NSC-131 is a New England-based group designated as a neo-Nazi group by the Anti-Defamation League.

NSC-131 leader Chris Hood and two counter-protesters were arrested Saturday afternoon, though District Attorney Kevin Hayden dropped the charges against the counter-protesters Monday following a demonstration on the courthouse steps early Monday.

Hayden told GBH News that the hiring of the new attorneys comes in response to the years-long trend of rising prominence of white supremacist groups in the community, but specifically due to a community meeting after roughly 100 members of neo-Nazi group Patriot Front marched through downtown Boston on July 2.

The community members had “a sort of request and hope and demand that we would be better prepared in the future,” to respond to white supremacist organizing, Hayden said. “That’s something that we’ve been thinking about and want to continue to be prepared for [in] the future.”

Hayden said that the new attorneys in his office are meant to promote “the prevailing notion that, simply put, Massachusetts and Boston is not an environment and place where we’re going to allow a white supremacist group to rise. Here we are a diverse and supportive community and stand fully behind diversity, equity and inclusion for all of our citizens.”

Boston City Councilor Kendra Lara, whose district includes Jamaica Plain, criticized the government reaction to the rise of neo-Nazi groups in Massachusetts.

“I think that it’s really a systemic failure that we don’t have this under control, that we haven’t been following these groups, that we have very limited intel about where they’re going to be and when they’re going to be there,” Lara told GBH News. “We’ve been talking so clearly about the fact that these groups have been showing up not just in online spaces, but physically here in the city of Boston.”

Rollins announced on social media that her office will be launching a hotline for citizens to alert authorities of neo-Nazi and white supremacist activity.

“If the public has any troubling or concerning information about members of white supremacist groups, we ask that you notify your local police departments or a member of law enforcement,” Rollins wrote Sunday. “I will be announcing a dedicated number for the community to call in the coming weeks. We need to expose these cowards.”

Before charges were dropped against the counter-protesters, around 30 demonstrators gathered on the steps of West Roxbury Courthouse early Monday, with signs reading “Drop the charges” and “No free speech for Nazis.”

Speakers said they were showing up not just in support of the two counter-protesters and to decry the government’s response to white supremacist violence, but also for other people facing charges that day. Liz, a spokesperson for the demonstrators who declined to give a last name, expressed outrage that police were escorting Hood and his entourage into the courthouse. “It’s horrifying that the state is enabling this kind of violence against its community.”

Lara praised community members for supporting one another at the rally.

“I think that queer folks, Jewish people, Black folks have been ringing the alarm about this kind of activity for a long time,” she told GBH News. “Because as with all things, we are on the receiving end and we kind of get it first.”

This story was originally published by GBH News, a partner of the New England News Collaborative.