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Neo-Nazi group spotted at St. Patrick’s Day parade remains active in Boston

"People here are very reluctant to believe that hate groups can exist here. We have a long history of confronting bigotry in other places and denying it at home."

Neo-Nazis at the South Boston St. Patrick's Day parade in March. This group has remained active in Boston. AP Photo/Steven Senne, File

Although many may see Massachusetts as a beacon of inclusive ideals, the state is not immune to the activities of hate groups. In fact, last year Massachusetts was the fourth-most targeted state in the country by hateful propaganda, according to The Anti-Defamation League

In March a neo-Nazi group known as the Nationalist Social Club, or NSC-131, was spotted at the annual South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade. It appears that group, and perhaps others, are still active in and around Boston. On May 7, an NSC-131 gathering was observed near the Park Street MBTA station, according to Waltham Night’s Watch, an organization that documents hate groups, hate crimes, and far-right activity in Boston, Waltham, and other nearby areas. 

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The neo-Nazi group has been organizing at least two public actions a month this year, and its membership abruptly spiked last fall, a representative of Night’s Watch said. This could be the reason the group is taking bold action and appearing in public frequently, they added. 

“What makes Massachusetts different is that people here are very reluctant to believe that hate groups can exist here. We have a long history of confronting bigotry in other places and denying it at home,” the Night’s Watch representative said. 

Boston police were not involved in any recent incidents with hate groups, a BPD representative said Tuesday. Generally, the group’s public showings are protected by first amendment rights, unless an altercation occurs or some other law is broken, the BPD representative added. 

NSC-131 is far from the only hate group active in Massachusetts. In 2021, The Southern Poverty Law Center tracked 14 hate groups operating in the state. They represent neo-Nazi, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim, and white nationalist ideals, according to SPLC. 

Anti-Semitic incidents increased by 42 percent in the New England Region in 2021, according to ADL. This includes 155 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism reported to ADL. Nationally, ADL reported that the United States saw a 34 percent increase in such incidents last year. 

Members of NSC-131 are fond of “flash demonstrations,” according to ADL. They have demonstrated in front of the Holocaust memorial in Boston, outside a school board meeting in New Hampshire, outside a progressive bookstore in Massachusetts, and staged an anti-LGBTQ protest outside the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in New Hampshire, according to ADL. 

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In January, a group of neo-Nazis targeted two doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, according to a statement from The Boston Human Rights Commission. The doctors were called “anti-white” for creating programs to address racial equity in medicine. In February a group of people concealing their faces held up a white banner with the words: “WHITE PATIENCE HAS LIMITS” on a bridge over Storrow Drive. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has also faced open threats of violence and hate speech due to her vaccine mandate in the city, according to the Commission.

Members of the neo-Nazi group explicitly identify with the original Nazis, and belive that there is a Jewish-led conspiracy to “replace” white people in America, the representative from Night’s Watch said. Their goal is to build an underground network of people willing to mount a “ruthless resistance” against perceived enemies, according to ADL. In addition to public demonstrations, NSC-131 members distribute propaganda and host private gatherings focused on firearms or fitness training, ADL reported.  

Earlier this year, a group of about 20 NSC-131 members attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, waving a banner that read “keep Boston Irish.” The organizers of the parade told The Boston Globe that the group was “neither invited, nor welcome at our parade.”

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Local Celtic-punk band The Dropkick Murphys also got involved when one of their songs was used by the neo-Nazi group in a video. After a back-and-forth on Twitter, the band sent NSC-131 a cease and desist letter for copyright violations.

While larger organizations like ADL and SPLC have the tools to gather detailed data on these hate groups, grassroots organizations like Night’s Watch are also becoming more active. 

“It’s important to document these things so people can’t deny them. It’s important for people in Massachusetts, particularly the Boston suburbs, to acknowledge these things happen here and take steps to protect our communities,” the Night’s Watch representative said. “People who are vulnerable to hate crimes deserve to know if there are hate groups active nearby. With regard to NSC, we hope that more people will learn to recognize and report their location when they do a public action, enabling flash counter-protests.”

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