Swastikas, antisemitic and racial slurs were spray-painted at the Hamond Nature Center in Marblehead last week.

Swastikas discovered in Marblehead; masked men hang “Jews did 9/11” sign on highway overpasses

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Swastikas discovered in Marblehead; masked men hang “Jews did 9/11” sign on highway overpasses

Swastikas, antisemitic and racial slurs were spray-painted at the Hamond Nature Center in Marblehead last week.

MARBLEHEAD – Public Jew-hatred was on display last weekend in northeastern Mass­achusetts, from Marblehead’s pastoral Hamond Nature Center – where swastikas, and antisemitic and racial slurs were spray-painted – to highway overpasses in Saugus and Danvers, where groups of masked men held a sign that read, “Jews did 9/11.”

The Journal obtained multiple photos from the Saugus and Danvers incidents but chose not to publish them.

The National Socialist Club, or NSC-131, took credit for the incidents and posted photos of the men holding the banners in Saugus and Danvers on their Gab social media account.

NSC-131 was founded in Worcester in 2019. 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.” In 2020, the group was also behind a “slap tag” incident where hate stickers were posted in downtown Salem and on Salem Common. Members of the organization were also spotted at the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol, according to the ADL.

Its founder, Christopher Hood, faces charges for fighting at a protest of a drag queen story hour in Boston in July.

Saugus Police Chief Michael Ricciardelli said the men on the Walnut Street-Route 1 overpass were seen at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10. On the Saugus overpass, they also unfurled a racist banner, which read “Defend White Communities NSC-131.” The same night, they were spotted on a railroad overpass on Route 114 in Danvers.

“Unfortunately, they have the right to assemble there, said Ricciardelli. “No matter what the message is, whether we agree with it or don’t agree with it, people have first amendment rights and we have to respect that, especially when we don’t agree with the message.”

Saugus Assistant Police Chief Ronald Giorgetti said his department is investigating the incident, but added that people have a right to assemble and express their opinions. “Nothing within the message raises to a violation of any criminal law,” he said.

On the Saugus Police homepage, the department posted a statement that condemned the incident: “While the First Amendment protects one’s legal right to speech, the Saugus Police Department condemns the hateful messages displayed in our community and we condemn antisemitism and hate in all its forms.”

In a statement on Facebook, ADL New England Regional Director Robert Trestan condemned the masked men who blamed the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on America against the Jews. “On September 11, a day when we remember a great tragedy experienced by our country and the loss of too many, a number of highway overpasses in our Commonwealth were tarnished with antisemitic banners, held by cowardly masked extremists, blaming these terror acts on Jews,” said Trestan.

“The scapegoating of the Jewish community is an age-old but exceedingly harmful antisemitic trope that must be called out and condemned whenever and wherever it occurs. Using this tragedy to spread false, destructive and divisive narratives harms our communities and sense of security and disgraces the memory of the victims from that day. Join us in condemning these activities and in recommitting ourselves to upholding our community values of justice.”

In Marblehead, police discovered the hate graffiti last Thursday at the Hamond Nature Center.

The incident follows three antisemitic incidents last January at the town’s Village Elementary School – including one on International Holocaust Day – where a swastika was carved into a stall in two boys’ bathrooms and antisemitic graffiti was found in a girls’ bathroom.

In a Facebook post, Marble­head Police Chief Dennis King denounced the hate speech, and also informed the Marblehead Task Force Against Discrimination and the Anti-Defamation League. “These types of incidents will not be tolerated in Marblehead, and we will conduct a full investigation using all available resources, while criminally charging anyone found responsible for this felonious act,” he said.

“I am tremendously disappointed that this behavior is ongoing,” said Helaine Hazlett, the co-chair of Marblehead Task Force Against Discrimination. “The Task Force will continue its work through programs and education to combat hate and discrimination in our community. We are grateful to our police chief and his officers for all their efforts to find the perpetrator(s) and for all they do to keep Marblehead safe.”

Journal associate editor Linda Matchan contributed to this article.

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