By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
In the wake of the anti-Semitic and racist vandalism targeting businesses and places of worship in Portsmouth last week, it is becoming clear that the Granite State is home to a growing number of hate groups.
New Hampshire’s hate problem is growing as reports of incidents are becoming more concerning. Most of the activity has been limited to vandalism and property damage, though there are increasing reports of threats and intimidation.
This week, Portsmouth police announced they are zeroing in on one of the suspects believed to be behind the hate graffiti at a dozen business, including Temple Israel and a Catholic church on Feb. 21. Fosters Daily Democrat reports police are now looking for a man, wearing a facemask, red hooded sweatshirt, khaki pants and white shoes with orange-rimmed glasses seen on surveillance video spray painting the buildings.
The FBI is now involved in the Portsmouth investigation.
It’s not yet known if the Portsmouth graffiti is linked to any of New Hampshire’s hate groups, but members of the neo-Nazi organization, NSC 131, were recently charged with civil rights violations by New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella.
Christopher Hood and Leo Anthony Cullinan were allegedly part of the NSC 131 demonstration on a Route 1 overpass in Portsmouth last July during which they displayed a sign that read “Keep New England White.”
The violations do not carry jail time, and max out at $5,000 fines if they are convicted. Cullinan is currently being held at Valley Street Jail on unrelated charges. Hood is the founder of NSC 131 and has ties to numerous and violent hate groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Hood’s NSC 131 has members throughout New England who gather for demonstrations and intimidation. The group issued threats against former state Rep. Manny Espitia, D-Nashua, after he complained about their graffiti in Nashua. The group members called Espitia, who is Hispanic, an “occupier” who has “no right to be here.”
Those threats were investigated by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, though no charges were brought.
Hood has ties to the Proud Boys, a national group that has engaged in fascistic violence and espoused racism and anti-Semitism.
Proud Boy members were part of the coordinated Jan. 6 riot at the United States Capitol. Proud Boys have a chapter in New Hampshire and members started attending school board meetings throughout the state during the height of the COVID school lockdowns, intimidating board members.
Not all the known hate groups are necessarily political. Richmond’s Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a fringe radical traditionalist community based at a Richmond compound, model themselves on a Roman Catholic religious order.
However, the group’s leadership is well-known for espousing anti-Semitism. The Slaves are considered a hate group by both the ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
According to the ADL, in a 1998 speech, Slaves leader Louis Villarubia said Jews are “the seed of the devil” and complained that John Cardinal O’Connor was a “Jew lover” who “defended the gospel of the Holocaust.” In an interview following the release of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ, Villarubia was quoted by journalist Michael Paulson on 2/22/04 as stating that Jews “belong to a religion which is, by its nature, deicidal.”
Last month, the FBI listed the Slaves in a memo of potentially dangerous groups of radical traditionalist Catholics. That memo was retracted by the FBI after it became public.
Villarubia, also known as Brother Andre Marie, has long disputed the hate group label. He blamed the inclusion in the FBI memo on the SPLC.
“I must protest against this defamatory falsehood, the injustice which it does to our good name, and the threat that it represents to the exercise of our apostolate,” Villarubia said of the FBI memo.
In 2019, Bishop Peter Libasci imposed restrictions on the group, barring the Slaves from calling themselves Catholic, and prohibiting them from celebrating Mass at their compound, among other restrictions.
Aside from known hate groups operating in New Hampshire, there are notorious individual white supremacists who have been getting attention.
Christopher Cantwell, also known as the Crying Nazi, was recently released from federal prison after his conviction for making rape threats against the wife of another white supremacist.
Though he is currently out of state, Cantwell came to New Hampshire as part of the Free State movement of Libertarian activists moving to the state. He was part of the Free Keene community until they disavowed him due to his violent, racist rhetoric.
Another seeming lone wolf is Ryan Murdough, president of the New England White Network. It is not clear if Murdough, an occasional Republican candidate for state representative, has any followers in his network. He has attracted attention for sending threatening emails to community leaders and lawmakers, most recently Rep. Amanda Elizabeth Toll, D-Keene.
Reports of hate incidents in New Hampshire are going up, according to Michael Garrity, spokesman for Formella’s office. That is concerning, but it may not mean more hate incidents are taking place.
“Our Civil Rights Unit has seen an increase in complaints and referrals it has received from members of the public, law enforcement, and other agencies,” Garrity said. “We cannot be certain whether the increase in complaints reflects an increase in hate crimes, but it does mean that members of the public are becoming more comfortable reporting potential hate incidents, civil rights violations, and hate crimes to law enforcement and our Civil Rights Unit.”
The New Hampshire Council of Churches issued a statement after the graffiti was discovered in Portsmouth saying it “stands with our colleagues and friends on the Seacoast who were targeted by acts of antisemitism and white supremacy in the overnight hours.
“Our friends at Temple Israel in Portsmouth, the local Masonic lodge, and many Black-owned businesses were targeted with graffiti, including Swastikas. Our faith compels us to speak out loudly and clearly against these acts of hate whenever and wherever we find them. We are particularly pained that cross imagery accompanied many of these acts of graffiti. These acts had nothing to do with loving our neighbors, or building a more just world in God’s name.”
Anyone with any further information about the Portsmouth incident is asked to call Portsmouth Police Detective Sergeant McCarthy at 603-616-7656, or remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers at 431-1199 or 1-207-439-1199, or their website, www.seacoastcrimestoppers.org