JAMAICA PLAIN – Chanting homophobic and anti-pedophile slogans, about 15 masked members of the neo-Nazi group NSC-131 demonstrated in front of an historic mansion here late last month, carrying a banner that read “Pedo Scum Off Our Street.”
The impetus was the Drag Queen Story Hour that had been hosted earlier that day at the Loring Greenough House, a community gathering place known for diversity and inclusiveness. It’s a program – not unique to Boston – where drag queens read stories to children in libraries, schools and bookstores to build empathy and raise awareness of gender diversity.
Charges were filed for disorderly conduct against Christopher R. Hood, 23, of Pepperell, founder of NSC-131, or Nationalist Social Club. But while the demonstration did not explicitly target Jewish groups, NSC-131, founded in Worcester in 2019, also has Jews in its crosshairs.
Its members see themselves as “soldiers at war with a hostile-Jewish-controlled system that is deliberately plotting the extinction of the white race,” according to the Anti-Defamation League’s website. “NSC espouses racism, antisemitism and intolerance via the Internet, propaganda distributions and the use of graffiti.”
One of the group’s hallmarks is participating in localized flash demonstrations and counter protests as well as mainstream events, such as this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston where they showed up along the parade route behind a banner that read “Keep Boston Irish.” (Hood attended that one, too: A Boston police spokesman said he was arrested at the time for public drinking.) In 2020, the group was also behind a “slap tag” incident where hate stickers were posted in downtown Salem and on Salem Common.
“Their hatred of Jews is at the center of their ideology,” said Robert Trestan, the New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. “They have certainly been more visible recently. They participated in January 6; members of this group went to Washington, DC. They’re increasingly active on the streets, from the insurrection to JP.”
What happened at the Jamaica Plain neo-Nazi protest, he said, “is definitely a Jewish story.”
The event at Loring Greenough House “was not antisemitic but that’s what they are – white supremacists and antisemites,” said Diane Spears, the board president.
To demonstrate against that demonstration, there was a “No Nazi Homophobes in JP” rally last Saturday opposing the NSC-131 event. Organized by Solidarity Against Hate Boston, it was held across the street from Loring Greenough House.
Drawing about 150 people, attendees spoke out against homophobia, racism, fascism, police aggression, and other concerns. Patrick Burr, who’d performed as the drag queen at last week’s story hour as Patty Bourrée told the group that his performance is not a ploy, as the neo-Nazi group alleged, to gain proximity to children for sex. It’s to promote “literacy, creativity and self-love in kids of all ages.”
Though there were no organized Jewish groups apparent, it was clear that the original demonstration had reverberated among Jewish individuals.
“I’m here in solidarity with all the issues impacting our democracy,” said Susan Trotz of Jamaica Plain, a retired school guidance counselor who lost family members in Nazi death camps. The neo-Nazi protest really unleashed the need for everyone to work together – for reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, poverty, homelessness, antisemitism. They are all connected.”
“I take what happened last Saturday very personally,” said another Jewish woman who asked that her name not be used, for fear of being targeted personally. “We are still too close to events that happened 70 or 80 years ago, though it doesn’t feel that long. There are still some crazy things that are happening. I’m sorry that … Jewish organizations weren’t out there to protest.”
“It is really important there is vocal opposition to these hateful groups,” said Jeremy Nesoff, who is Jewish and works at a national educational non-profit and lives nearby.
“The event was the product of growing white supremacism in our country that uses political violence and intimidation as a tool. And if those of us who oppose it don’t choose to stand up now, things are only going to get worse.
He added that he is the grandson of two Holocaust survivors. “At age 51 these are things I’ve been thinking about my whole life. And 2022 is the first time I came face to face with actual Nazis. The idea that these issues are in the past or are history is a fantasy we need to snap out of.”
Linda Matchan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org