Hate in the Bay State: Extremism & Antisemitism in Massachusetts, 2021-2022
Over the last two years, extremist activity in Massachusetts has mirrored developments on the national stage. Like the rest of the country, Massachusetts has seen white supremacists – including the Nationalist Social Club – increasingly make their presence known. The Bay State has also reported extensive propaganda distribution efforts, especially by Patriot Front, which resulted in Massachusetts recording the country’s second-highest number of white supremacist propaganda incidents in 2022.
Amidst increasing nationwide threats to the LGBTQ+ community, Massachusetts has also witnessed a spike in anti-LGBTQ+ activity, including waves of harassment against Boston Children’s Hospital, drag performances and LGBTQ+ events. And as the numbers of antisemitic incidents continue to rise across the country, Massachusetts was no exception. According to ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, it was the sixth most affected state in the country in 2022.
This report will explore the full range of extremist groups and movements operating in Massachusetts and highlight the key extremist and antisemitic trends and incidents in the state in 2021 and 2022.
- Antisemitic Incidents: Massachusetts saw a dramatic rise in antisemitic incidents, according to ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. In 2022, the number of incidents increased 41% over 2021 levels, rising from 108 to 152. That increase followed a similar spike between 2020 and 2021, when incidents leapt from 73 to 108 incidents.
- Extremist Events: ADL documented 34 white supremacist events in the state in 2021 and 2022, including protests, meetings, flash demonstrations, banner drops and marches.
- White Supremacist Propaganda: White supremacist propaganda distributions are on the rise in Massachusetts. In 2022, ADL documented 465 instances of white supremacist propaganda distribution across the state, an increase of 71% from 2021 (272). The groups responsible for the majority of the incidents include Patriot Front, NSC-131 and the Goyim Defense League (GDL).
- Extremist Plots and Murders: In 2021 and 2022, ADL documented one extremist attack in Massachusetts, resulting in two deaths.
- Hate Crime Statistics: According to the latest FBI hate crime statistics, there were 412 reported hate crimes in Massachusetts in 2021, an increase of 33% from the 310 incidents in 2020.
- Insurrection Statistics: Nine of the 968 individuals charged in relation to the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol are residents of Massachusetts, according to data compiled by the George Washington University Program on Extremism.
As noted in ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, in 2022, the Center on Extremism (COE) documented the highest number of antisemitic incidents since tabulation began in 1979, with more than 3,697 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment nationwide, a 36% increase from 2021.
Massachusetts had the sixth-highest number of reported antisemitic incidents in 2022, with 152. Instances of vandalism increased by 41% (82 incidents in 2022, compared to 58 in 2021), while instances of harassment increased by 38% (66 incidents in 2022, compared to 48 in 2021). Massachusetts also recorded four assaults, double the number recorded in 2021.
A total of 71 cities and towns in Massachusetts saw at least one antisemitic incident in 2022, an increase from 54 towns in 2021. This count includes antisemitic assaults, incidents in K-12 schools and college campuses and vandalism of Jewish institutions.
- In December 2022, a Westwood synagogue’s “Rabbi” parking sign was vandalized with swastikas.
- In October 2022, vandalism containing swastikas was found on the campus of Middlesex Community College in Bedford.
- In May 2022, a student in Waltham brought a knife to school, threatened his Jewish classmates and held the knife to the throat of a Jewish classmate.
- In April 2022, someone carved a swastika into a corkboard on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge.
- In July 2021, a rabbi was stabbed outside of the Shaloh House Jewish Day School in Boston.
- In February 2021, the host of a live cable access TV program and then Lowell School Committee member referred to a former school employee as "the kike" during a live broadcast.
College campuses in Massachusetts also experienced at least three documented Israel-related antisemitic incidents in 2021 and 2022, including: a large, wooden sign reading “Zionism is racism” displayed in Harvard Yard; the Tufts University Hillel office received two calls from an unidentified individual expressing anti-Israel sentiments; and a Palestinian flag reading “Fuck 12” (an anti-police message) zip-tied to the front door of Harvard’s Hillel, in what could be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate Jewish/Zionist students.
In 2022, Massachusetts was also targeted by the “Mapping Project,” an interactive map that pinpointed the locations of Jewish communal and other community organizations that the unknown creators believe are responsible for the “colonization of Palestine” and other perceived “harms that we see linked, such as policing, US imperialism and displacement.” The map lists the names and addresses for approximately 500 organizations in total. This project included a disturbing call to “dismantle” and “disrupt” most of Boston’s Jewish community and included a thinly veiled threat: “Every entity has an address, every network can be disrupted.”
Three Key Extremist Trends in Massachusetts
NSC-131 increases its activity in Massachusetts
Since 2021, the Nationalist Social Club, also known as NSC-131, has grown rapidly to become one of New England's most active white supremacist groups; their presence is particularly robust in Massachusetts. In the last two years, NSC-131 has held at least 30 events in Massachusetts – 22 in 2022 alone – including hanging antisemitic banners over highways, demonstrating against LGBTQ+ events and on-the-ground intimidation campaigns. These events drew an average of 22 members, and as many as 38 people.
In the past two years, NSC-131 has demonstrated an increased willingness to physically engage with their perceived enemies. In July 2022, NSC-131’s founder and leader was arrested in Boston and charged with fighting in public as 20 members protested outside a drag queen story hour. A few months later, approximately nine members demonstrated outside an anarchist book fair in Cambridge, banging on the windows and trying to gain access to the event.
Despite their regional focus, NSC-131 has collaborated with other white supremacist movements. In 2021, NSC-131 often coordinated their activity with White Lives Matter, and in 2022 the group held an event that included Jon Minadeo of the antisemitic Goyim Defense League, as well as neo-Nazi Christopher Pohlhaus.
On January 17, 2023, the New Hampshire Attorney General filed a civil action against NSC-131, the group’s leader Christopher Hood and a second member, Leo Anthony Cullinan, for violating the state’s Civil Rights Act. The complaint stems from an alleged July 2022 banner drop orchestrated by Hood and Cullinan. Since the charges were filed, NSC-131 claims to have raised more than $10,000 to pay for legal fees. The pace at which NSC-131 was able to fundraise for these expenses highlights the outsized influence of this small group.
Most recently, NSC-131 created People's Initiative of New England (PINE) to engage in local political activism. Since its formation in April 2023, PINE has advocated for their five-point plan for New England, a more sanitized version of NSC-131’s agenda that includes seceding from the U.S. to create a “white homeland” and ending all non-white immigration. Their goal is to eventually run a candidate for local office. Since their inception, members have held group meetups across New England, including Massachusetts.
Approximately 23 individuals associated with NSC-131 protested on December 10, 2022, outside of a Drag Queen Story Hour reading at the Fall River Public Library.
Massachusetts had the second-highest number of documented white supremacist propaganda incidents in 2022
According to COE data, Massachusetts had the second-highest number of white supremacist propaganda incidents in the United States in 2022, trailing only Texas. The overwhelming majority of the propaganda content was produced by the white supremacist group Patriot Front, which was responsible for at least 447 instances of white supremacist propaganda in the state, an 83 percent increase from the previous year.
Patriot Front is a Texas-based white supremacist group with members all over the country, but they have become increasingly active in Massachusetts because of the state’s ties to the founding of the United States. Patriot Front most frequently distributes banners, fliers, posters and stickers in communities across the state. However, on July 2, 2022, approximately 100 members of Patriot Front marched through downtown Boston carrying riot shields, Patriot Front flags and banners reading “Reclaim America” and “Strong Families Make Strong Nations.”
On July 2, 2022, an estimated 100 members of Patriot Front held a flash demonstration in Boston, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts is a hotbed for anti-LGBTQ+ extremism, which increased nationwide in 2022
2022 saw a national wave of bigoted action against the LGBTQ+ community perpetrated by extremists and those espousing conspiracy theories. Extremists mobilized across the country to disrupt Pride celebrations and in November 2022, a shooting at an LGBTQ+ club in Colorado left five people dead.
Massachusetts also witnessed considerable anti-LGBTQ+ hate in 2022. Over the last year, extremists targeted LGBTQ+ events, particularly drag shows, throughout the state. Throughout 2022, Boston Children’s Hospital endured multiple waves of threats and harassment stemming from the hateful and false narratives surrounding gender-affirming care. At least two individuals have been arrested for sending threats, including one Texas resident. The harassment campaign against the hospital was amplified by the anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Chaya Raichik, who runs the social media account LibsofTikTok.
Additional Extremist Activity
Extremist Plots and Murders
In 2021 and 2022, ADL documented one extremist attack in Massachusetts, resulting in two deaths. On June 26, 2021, Nathan Allen, 28, allegedly shot two people, both fatally, after driving a truck into a building in Winthrop. A responding law enforcement officer then shot and killed Allen. After the murders, investigators reportedly found white supremacist writings in Allen’s handwriting.
Nation of Islam (NOI)
The Nation of Islam (NOI), the notoriously antisemitic Black nationalist organization, operates multiple local chapters in Massachusetts, including Muhammad Mosque No. 11 in Boston and Muhammad Mosque No. 13 in Springfield. Both the Boston and Springfield chapters amplify the NOI’s characteristic antisemitism and bigotry in their online and on-the-ground activities.
Despite the Nation of Islam’s well-established record of bigotry and antisemitism, the NOI’s Massachusetts chapters — like many of the group’s chapters across the country — are sometimes supported by elected officials, interfaith coalitions or other mainstream sources, particularly around the NOI’s community-focused initiatives. For example, mainstream sources have praised and financially supported both 10,000 Fearless Peacemakers and Torchlight Recovery Group — organizations that work to counter gun violence and provide support for those recovering from substance use disorders, respectively — which are directly tied to Muhammad Mosque No. 11.
Black Hebrew Israelite Movement
The Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) movement is a fringe religious movement that rejects widely accepted definitions of Judaism and asserts that people of color are the true children of Israel; the movement includes both extremist and non-extremist sects. Both Israel United in Christ (IUIC) and the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK), two of the most prominent extremist sects of the BHI movement, have active Massachusetts chapters. In addition to their active social media presence, these groups frequently engage in organized street preaching activities in and around Boston, during which they advertise their organization and antagonize passersby with antisemitic and other bigoted commentary.
The sovereign citizen movement has a small presence in Massachusetts. However, one of the more significant recent arrests took place there in 2021. On July 3, 2021, 11 individuals associated with “Rise of the Moors,” a Moorish sovereign citizen group based in Rhode Island, were arrested following an hours-long armed standoff with Massachusetts police on I-95 in Wakefield. The standoff started when the Moors failed to provide proper identification and firearms permits and refused to comply with orders. Since their arrest, the Moors have continued to cause problems, filing a $70 million lawsuit challenging Massachusetts state courts’ jurisdiction over their case and a second lawsuit claiming that the group’s Second Amendment rights were violated and that they were falsely imprisoned. Both lawsuits were quickly dismissed by federal judges.
Aside from the Rise of the Moors standoff, other sovereigns in Massachusetts have faced occasional arrests or court sanctions for filing frivolous lawsuits and other documents. For example, in October 2022, a federal judge ruled that Deric Marcell Thompson had to pay over $41,000 to attorneys for a car dealership after the dealership sued him for filing frivolous IRS and UCC documents against them, interfering with the dealership’s ability to obtain financing for the vehicles it sold. Thompson had filed the frivolous documents because he was upset that the dealership rejected his $3.5 quintillion “certificate of deposit” for the SUV he wanted.
According to a published database, 550 Massachusetts residents have paid membership dues to the Oath Keepers since the group’s founding in 2009. A COE analysis of this information found that at the time of publication this list included two individuals holding or running for public office, seven individuals believed to be active members of law enforcement, one individual believed to be an active member of the military and two individuals believed to currently be first responders.
Super Happy Fun America
Super Happy Fun America (SHFA) is a Massachusetts-based right-wing group primarily known for organizing a 2019 “straight pride” parade in Boston. In addition to its anti-LGBTQ+ activity, the group has organized demonstrations and events targeting “liberal” policies, such as COVID-19 related restrictions, vaccine mandates and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Two members of the group, both Massachusetts residents, were arrested for their participation in the January 6 attack.
In 2021 and 2022, the group held at least four events in Massachusetts, including a "festival" featuring speeches from the group’s two January 6, 2021 riot participants, an anti-vaccine demonstration which resulted in two arrests and a demonstration outside of the Chelsea FBI office to call out the "crimes of the FBI."
January 6 Insurrection
Nine of the 968 individuals charged in relation to the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol are residents of Massachusetts, according to data compiled by the George Washington University Program on Extremism. ADL found that this includes at least two people with extremist ties, both of whom were connected to Super Happy Fun America. While individuals affiliated with NSC-131 were present during the insurrection, none have been arrested or charged.
Recommendations for Policymakers
ADL advocates for a range of policies and activities that can help address antisemitism, hate and extremism while preserving civil liberties. The following suggestions are intended as potential policy items for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to consider as lawmakers address the challenges raised in this report.
1. Protect Individuals from Online Hate and Harassment
The threats posed by online hate and harassment are all too real for the Jewish community of Massachusetts. Many individuals throughout both Massachusetts and nationally are targets of doxing, or the publishing of private, personally identifiable information with malicious intent. Increasing online activity has the ugly consequence of a growth in online harassment, and state laws need to evolve to protect these individuals from harmful targeting. In response to these and other growing threats, ADL is supporting both S.971/H.1707 and S.1116 in the Massachusetts State Legislature: these crucial bills would ensure the establishment of civil remedies for targets of doxing, or the release of a person’s personal identifying information with the intent to cause physical harm or stalking.
2. Hold Social Media Platforms Accountable
Last year, the State of California signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 587, a first-of-its-kind measure that requires greater transparency on content moderation protocols from major social media platforms. While social media companies have taken some steps to rein in hate and harassment, their lack of transparency has meant that users and policymakers have no way to know if companies actually abide by and enforce their own policies. Under this law, social media platforms are now required to publicly disclose their corporate policies as well as provide biannual and quarterly filings with California’s Attorney General on key data and metrics on the enforcement of their policies. As enacted, the legislation will work to address the ways in which social media foments hate speech, disinformation, conspiracy theories and violent extremism that allows for the harassment and targeting of marginalized groups. State legislators in Massachusetts should similarly introduce a bill that holds social media platforms accountable and ensures they are effectively moderating hate and abiding by their own guidelines.
3. Strengthen Hate Crime Reporting and Response
Comprehensive approaches to address hate crimes are critical to address antisemitism, hate, and extremism. Governor Healey should reprise the Commonwealth’s Hate Crimes Task Force and consider its prior recommendations, as well as consider approaches to:
- Mandate that law enforcement agencies report comprehensive hate crimes data: Law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts should be required to report comprehensive hate crime data on a quarterly basis. Procedures should also be put in place to collect hate crime information and reports voluntarily produced by non-law enforcement entities such as community groups, advocacy groups and civil rights agencies.
- Strengthen hate crimes laws: Legislators should consider opportunities to strengthen hate crimes laws, including by passing S.914 (a bill that would add sex and gender as protected identity characteristics under Massachusetts’s hate crime statutes) and S.924/H.1392 (a bill that would ensure that associational hate crimes are covered under Massachusetts law, specifically in the landlord/tenant context).
4. Protect Civil Rights
Protecting the rights of all people in Massachusetts can help reduce bias and discrimination and create a safer and more equitable Commonwealth. For example, ADL supports S.1510/ H.2288, legislation that would protect the civil rights and safety of all Massachusetts residents by prohibiting state and local involvement in civil immigration enforcement, increasing immigrant access to court and police protection.
The work of ADL’s Center on Extremism is made possible by the generous support of:
The ADL Lewy Family Institute for Combatting Antisemitism
David Berg Foundation
Crown Family Philanthropies
Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations
Morton H. Meyerson Family Foundation/Marlene Nathan Meyerson
Charles and Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation
The Nancy K. Silverman Foundation
The Tepper Foundation
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundationn
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director
Gabrielle Savage, Senior Vice President, Operations
Oren Segal, Vice President, ADL Center on Extremism
Peggy Shukur, Interim Regional Director of ADL New England
ADL Center on Extremism:
Alex Friedfeld, Associate Director of Investigative Research, Center on Extremism
Emily Kaufman, Associate Director of Investigative Research, Center on Extremism
Ben Popp, Investigative Researcher, Center on Extremism