By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
The Laconia woman targeted by Neo-Nazi graffiti says she’s not going to let the vandals scare her off.
“They f*cked with the wrong old broad,” she said. “We were brought up to fight this stuff.”
Vandals hit a building at the former Laconia State School property sometime over the weekend of Sept. 15 through Sept. 17, when the Jewish community worldwide celebrates the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. They painted swastikas and other Nazi slogans, and they named her in their hate slogans.
Taking advice from Laconia Police Chief Matt Canfield, the woman is not using her name for this story. She’s a prominent member of Laconia’s Jewish community and has been fighting against hate-inspired graffiti for months.
This spring, she brought attention to the racist messages painted at a former Laconia State School building there that were being ignored by the community. The Neo-Nazi push back last week is being taken as a direct response to her activism.
“They waited ‘til Rosh Hashanah to hit us hard,” she said.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, as well as the FBI, are responding to the situation in Laconia. The woman told InDepthNH.org she’s grateful for the response, especially from the Laconia Police Department. The officers have been visible guardians for the Jewish community since the vandalism.
“I worry about my community,” she said.
This weekend is Yom Kippur, the holiest holiday for Jewish people. It’s when Jewish people fast, pray, and atone for their sins in order to grow closer to God. It also brings anxiety that they will be targeted for harassment, or worse.
“I’m not scared. I’m sad and I’m tired,” she said.
The state could do more to secure the former Laconia State School property to keep it free from vandals, she said. She plans to keep pushing city leaders to root out the hate groups.
The woman told InDepthNH.org she trusts Laconia’s police to keep her and other Jewish residents safe. That’s not the case everywhere in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire has a growing problem with extremists. Hate groups like Patriot Front, the Proud Boys, and NSC-131 are all active in the Granite State. The response to the hate has not always been robust.
When Franklin restaurant owner Miriam Kovacs, who is Jewish, was targeted for harassment by members of NSC-131 last year, she says city officials retaliated against her.
According to a lawsuit Kovacs filed last month, Franklin police initially dismissed her harassment reports. When she started contacting the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Civil Rights Unit, Kovacs said Franklin Police tried to sabotage the meeting and blamed her for vandalizing her restaurant.
Kovacs’ boyfriend, Franklin Police Officer Mark Faro, was disciplined by Chief David Goldstein for their relationship, according to the lawsuit. The reason for the discipline is that Kovacs by this time had publicly criticized the department, the lawsuit states.
“[Miriam] promotes anti-Franklin Police Department and anti-law enforcement attitudes and behaviors” Goldstein’s letter to Faro states.
Goldstein is still on the job, but the members of his department handed him a vote of no confidence in February.