SALEM – After months of reports of hate graffiti and vandalism in Salem touting a white supremacist group called Patriot Front, two men were caught with fresh spray paint on their hands and clothing Saturday night at the MBTA station on Bridge Street by the Salem police.
“Patriot Front is identified by various watchdog agencies including the Anti-Defamation League as a white supremacist, racist, and anti-Semitic group,” police said in a post on Facebook.
Alex C. Beilman, 27, of Meriden, Connecticut, and Kyle T. Morelli, 27, of Salem, face one count each of vandalizing property and tagging property. Police are continuing to investigate and could bring more charges.
After their arrest, Beilman and Morelli were released on personal recognizance, said Lt. John Burke, the Salem Police Department’s public information officer, in an email. The decision to release them was based on the decision of a clerk magistrate and not the police department, he said.
On Tuesday, July 13, the pair pleaded not guilty and were released on personal recognizance with conditions during their arraignment in Salem District Court before Judge Randy Chapman. Both men said they would hire their own lawyer.
Assistant District Attorney Haleigh Reisman said the condition for Morelli was to stay away from three locations where the prosecutor said had allegedly been tagged: The T station and two other locations in the city, including Essex Street. Morelli said he was agreeable to that. Beilman was ordered to stay away from Salem except to come to court or meet with a local attorney.
“I can do that, sir,” Beilman said. The case was continued until Aug. 24. The pair were given the standard bail warning that if they get into any further criminal activity, their bail could be revoked for up to 90 days.
Burke said before the arraignment because the investigation is ongoing, he could not comment on any additional outcomes of the case.
In a subsequent email, Burke said of the additional two locations mentioned beside the MBTA station: “Those other locations are the scene of previous similar incidents, but they are currently still under investigation. At this time, I do not know if there will be any additional charges.”
At about 9:48 p.m. on Saturday, July 10, police said Patrol Officer Edgar Green responded to the station, and as he pulled into the parking lot, he saw two men wearing masks and hoods engaging in what he believed to be tagging public property. When the men spotted Green and his cruiser, they attempted to hide some items in a backpack and walk away.
“The individuals were detained and found to have fresh paint on their hands and clothing,” police said. “There was also fresh paint on the wall. The investigation resulted in the discovery of two cans of spray paint and two stencils.” A website address for Patriot Front was on the stencils, and one read “Strong Families Make Strong Nations.”
Stickers from the Texas-based white nationalist group were twice found on a vegan bakery on Church Street over the winter targeting Pride Flag decals in the front window. Beverly and Peabody have also seen similar incidents of vandalism by this group over the past year.
“As you may be recall, earlier this year there had been a spate of ‘slap-tagging’ of white supremacist stickers on local business and public property in Salem, and at least one local business had their store window defaced with a painted stencil supporting a white supremacist organization,” Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said in a post on Facebook.
“As a city that prides itself on being inclusive and welcoming, we strongly condemned these acts. They are more than just cowardly acts of vandalism: they are intended to frighten and discomfort residents in their own community,” Driscoll said.
“We must continue to be diligent. These groups represent a potential danger and we need to report them to the police and the No Place for Hate Committee,” said Jeff Cohen, co-chair of the city’s No Place for Hate Committee.
The committee has been dealing with reports of many incidents for more than a year. He described tagging of hate symbols around the city, in parks, at a school, on poles and electrical boxes, and in Forest River Park by Patriot Front and another hate group that goes by the name NS-131, Nationalist Socialist Club.
The ADL describes this group as a Neo-Nazi group that espouses antisemitism, racism and intolerance online and through the use of propaganda distributions and graffiti.
Graffiti of the right-wing extremist QAnon conspiracy was also found on a bench at Forest River Park, Cohen said. The goal of these “potentially violent groups” is to create fear, he added.
“We will continue to take these activities seriously and encourage anyone who sees this type of vandalism in our community to report it to the Salem Police Department at 978-744-1212 so we can track and investigate this activity,” Driscoll said.