SALEM – A group known by the Anti-Defamation League for its anti-Semitism, white supremacy and racism has twice targeted the same Church Street vegan bakery’s window with hate stickers covering its Pride Flag decals.
The latest incident by Patriot Front took place on Feb. 14, according to the Facebook page of Jodi Bee Bakes. The group appears to be targeting the LGBTQ+ community.
However, Salem is not alone in fielding reports of hate flyers, stickers and other symbols cropping up within its borders. In January, Beverly released a unified statement denouncing such activity in the Garden City.
“We have been vandalized with yet another sticker that we did not approve of. Luckily this one was easy to remove,” read a statement on Jodie Bee Bakes’ Facebook page on Feb. 14. “Placing this sticker over a pride sticker is hate speech. Jodi Bee Bakes does not condone hate at all. We love everyone.”
The hate sticker read “Better Dead Than Red,” and was placed on the window over a Pride Flag decal sometime overnight Feb. 14. Another small sticker showed up over a Pride Flag decal without permission on Jan. 27.
The Texas-based Patriot Front promotes anti-Semitism in its flyers and online rhetoric, and the group defines itself as American nationalist or American fascist, according to the Anti-Defamation Leagues’ website. Their propaganda has shown up in Massachusetts and several other states.
“The placement of the stickers, according to the police, deems it as a hate crime,” said Jodi Bee Bakes owner Doug Gust. He plans to install motion-sensitive cameras in the vestibule to deter someone from doing this again.
Gust said the vandalism makes him angry. “We like to think we are a safe space,” Gust said. Other store windows in the city have been targeted as well, he added.
“We are working with the police,” Gust said. “They came and photographed this. They have a really good idea who is doing this, they just have to catch them.”
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll condemned these incidents, in a statement to the Jewish Journal.
“As a city that prides itself on being inclusive and welcoming, we strongly condemn these. They are more than just cowardly acts of vandalism: they are intended to frighten and discomfort residents in their own community.” Those with information about these and other incidents should call the Salem Police Department at 978-744-1212, Driscoll said.
“We have investigated six total slap tag incidents in the downtown since January 1st,” said acting Salem police Chief Dennis King, in an email. “We have reported this activity to the appropriate federal law enforcement partners in an effort to identify those responsible for these crimes in Salem.”
King said the city saw slap tagging by another white supremacist group, NSC-131, downtown and on Salem Common, last year.
“In many of these recent incidents,” King said, “our officers proactively identified the Patriot Front sticker before it was reported because we had identified this activity and group’s presence in our community as unwanted and a significant concern. This has also enabled us to immediately remove the stickers and limit the exposure. Exposure and spreading a message of hate and white supremacy is a goal of these groups. We are mindful to not provide fuel to their message, while also identifying the threat to a community when members of this group walk our streets.”
King said the police do not have information indicating that the group intends to commit acts of violence in the city. He said the incidents, which all took place downtown, did not include acts of violence. Videos and witnesses have identified two men, but police do not have enough information to put out an accurate description.
King said the crimes are felonies and will be reviewed under state civil rights law. The department is committed to identifying those responsible and holding them accountable. He credited the Salem No Place for Hate Committee for identifying the NSC-131 slap tagging that went on last year.
On Jan. 29, Beverly officials, including the mayor, police chief, the city’s Human Rights Committee and others, issued a statement denouncing “hate symbols in the City of Beverly.”
“In the past month,” the statement read, “we have received troubling reports of stickers, recruitment flyers, and most recently the display of a flag attributable to white-supremacy groups, including the Patriot Front and Three Percenters. In the past six months, we have also witnessed vandalism to city stop signs with anti-Asian, anti-Black, and anti-Semitic messaging, and the theft of Black Lives Matter flags from personal property.”
The city denounced “overt or subtle statements, actions, or symbols that promote hate or division.” To the groups that were being targeted, the statement read: “We are here for you, we see you, and we appreciate you.”
The statement said hate speech can lead to hate crimes if not addressed, and while such speech and symbols of hate in and of themselves do not violate the law, they should be denounced collectively “at all times.”
“There is nothing the police can do, but it doesn’t mean we can’t take a stand in some way,” said Temple B’nai Abraham’s Rabbi Alison Adler, who is a member of the Beverly Multi-Faith Coalition. “We are all nervous about this stuff happening,” she said, though she feels fortunate to be living in a place where people are addressing it.
Abu Toppin, Beverly’s director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said residents should report hate incidents to the Beverly Police at 978-922-1212.