After Saturday’s demonstration of white supremacy at an LGBTQ-friendly children’s program, the latest in a spate of increased activity by hate groups, prosecutors have begun to reinvigorate civil rights defenses.
District Attorney Kevin Hayden said over the weekend that the descent of NSC-131 members into a public drag queen story hour for children and families in Jamaica Plain was “both a disgrace and a warning.”
Hayden announced a response Monday morning. According to a release from the DA’s office, the High Risk Victims Unit will expand into the Civil Rights/High Risk Victims Unit and gain two new prosecutors for civil rights cases.
The move is designed to better coordinate and prosecute felony and misdemeanor civil rights and hate crime cases, the release said.
The office will continue to protect free speech “as long as it doesn’t turn into threats or violence,” Hayden said.
The leader of the white supremacist group NSC-131, Christopher Hood, is facing a charge of disorderly conduct for the altercation at Saturday’s demonstration.
Hayden cited a disturbing increase in white supremacist activity in the area, listing recent reports of hate literature being distributed in Danvers, Hamilton, Ipswich and Chatham. a neo-Nazi protest at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in February; NSC-131 gathering at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March; Patriot Front march through downtown Boston on July 2; and homophobic graffiti and death threats at an LGBTQ-friendly housing project in Hyde Park in mid-July.
Anti-Defamation League report in March The DA’s office noted that Massachusetts had the fourth-highest level of hate propaganda activity in the nation in 2021.
Hayden also warned that the upcoming congressional and 2024 presidential elections could lead to more such increases.
Rachel Rollins, United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, called on community members to report any concerns about white supremacist activities to law enforcement. His office will announce a “designated number for the community to call” in the coming weeks. Rollins tweeted..
“When we see inequality and disadvantage, we look the perpetrator in the eye and demand that it be stopped,” he wrote. “If it doesn’t, we use every means at our disposal — through legislation, through the courts, and with community organizing — to end it. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen here.”
Mayor Michelle Wu also said the city was taking a “zero-tolerance approach to any group seeking to intimidate or harass the residents of our city” over the weekend.