New England has a Nazi problem — Here’s how activists around the Boston area are fighting it
Citizen activists are stepping up their offensive strategies toward the insidious New England Nazi group NSC-131 as law enforcement fails to pin down the white supremacists in their communities.
Content warning: this article discusses and contains images of and pertaining to instances of white supremacy, Nazism, and related hate and violence.
On a rainy Saturday in January, dozens of families gathered at the public library in Taunton, Massachusetts for a drag queen story hour hosted by local queen Monica Moore. In a flowy purple gown and long blonde tresses, Moore began reading a picture book as the young children sitting on the colorful rug listened intently.
Within minutes, a small group of men in black jackets, khaki pants, and ski masks — the de facto uniform of New England’s very own Nazi group, NSC-131 — entered the room and began calling Moore names, including “groomer,” “pedophile,” and “street whore.” Parents offered Moore encouragement as she continued reading, but when one of the masked men sat in the reading circle next to children and parents, some families quickly left. Outside the library, they were met with over a dozen more masked men who held a banner that read “Drag Queens Are Pedophiles!” and shouted at parents, calling them abusers as they walked past with their children.
This wasn’t the group’s first time protesting a children’s story time event. In July, three people were arrested and a civil rights investigation was launched when NSC-131 members protested a book reading featuring drag queens in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Two of those arrested were counterprotestors trying to prevent the story time event from being disrupted. Christopher R. Hood Jr., the leader of NSC-131, was the only Nazi arrested that day.
Hood is a 24-year-old white supremacist from Malden who has been involved in far-right extremist organizing since he was 16. He was allegedly kicked out of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front in 2019 for stealing funds to buy marijuana. In late 2019, Hood began posting on Facebook about a new group he was starting, which eventually became the Nationalist Social Club-131. The numbers 131 are alphanumeric code for “ACA,” which stands for “anti-communist action.”
Based in Massachusetts, NSC-131 is a relatively small group with regional chapters throughout New England. The group desires a total governmental overhaul; their manifesto calls for radical action to completely reconstruct the current political system.
They distribute propaganda and threats in neighborhoods, and hang racist banners on highway overpasses across New England. Hood and fellow NSC-131 member, Leo Cullinan, are currently charged with violating New Hampshire’s civil rights laws after hanging a banner that read “Keep New England White” on a Portsmouth overpass. The men are struggling to find a New Hampshire lawyer willing to represent them, but have raised over $13,000 dollars in their online fundraising campaign for legal fees.
NSC-131 eschews the pro-America rhetoric and imagery employed by other white supremacist groups such as Patriot Front. The group uses well-known symbols of Germany’s Nazi Party in their logo and flags and members proudly refer to themselves as Nazis. The NSC manifesto explains that they use Nazi imagery to “attract more attention,” to be “taken more seriously,” and to prevent their message of white supremacy from being diluted.
“We become less fringe with every successful action,” the manifesto states, also claiming that the popular right-wing causes of the day align with Nazism. “We remind [white] people that it is Nazism to oppose White demographic replacement. It is Nazism to oppose Drag Queen Story Hour and Critical Race Theory.”
At last year’s St. Patrick’s day parade in Boston, NSC-131 garnered international attention when around a dozen members displayed a banner that read “KEEP BOSTON IRISH.”
But NSC-131 isn’t just a threat to Boston. The group’s regional leader for Massachusetts, Liam MacNeil, was born and raised in Waltham, and remains active locally. An anonymous local activist sent the Justice a 2022 NSC propaganda video showing the group marching, putting up stickers, and posing with a banner in the Moody Street area. The video also appears to show a police officer speaking with the group before walking away.
Tracking an increase in violence
On July 25, 2022, Hood arrived for his hearing at a Boston courthouse. He’d been charged with fighting in a public place after his arrest a few days prior at the drag story event in Jamaica Plain. This was Hood’s third arrest in Boston; the first two were dismissed.
Dressed in black and flanked by four other members of NSC-131, Hood found himself face-to-face with Rod Webber, a local filmmaker, performance artist, and activist. Webber was filming the group as they walked toward the door, when one of the NSC members shoved him and he fell to the ground.
Webber emerged mostly unscathed — he followed the group up to the courthouse door — but was stopped by Boston police. During his interaction with an officer, Webber fell down the courthouse stairs; he said the police pushed him down and he was taken into custody. Online, NSC began to celebrate the attack, using the video as a demonstration of violence and power for online recruitment tactics.
This wasn’t Webber’s first time interacting with NSC members. Webber and his wife, Lauren Pespisa, have been filming NSC’s public activities since 2020. They first encountered the group while collecting footage for Webber’s documentary, “2020: The Dumpster Fire,” about that year’s protests and presidential campaigns.
Webber and Pespisa have interacted with NSC-131 close to a dozen times since then, “But they’ve really stepped up their efforts in the past two years,” he said during a May 13 interview with the Justice.
NSC was even present during the January 6 insurrection in 2021; Liam MacNeil posted a photo on Telegram holding a Capitol police officer’s helmet that appeared to have been seized. According to messages on the group’s Telegram channel, members chose to show up in small numbers at the insurrection to “ensure white safety.” To this day, no one in NSC-131 has been taken into custody or faced legal consequences for their role in the insurrection.
Webber said NSC’s demonstrations are “more akin to flash mobs” than rallies, because they keep their plans secret and show up unannounced. These mobs have grown in size over the years. “The more recent ones [had] 20, sometimes close to 30 guys running around with a mask on their face doing Sieg Heil [Nazi] salutes,” said Webber. The group has also gotten more violent over the years, according to Pespisa.
On May 10, 2023 an NSC member from Salem, New Hampshire was sentenced to 18 months in prison for illegal possession of machine guns. Authorities said Kyle Morris, 23, kept the two guns in a room with over 20 other firearms and an array of Nazi paraphernalia, including a Nazi uniform and a framed photo of Hitler. Authorities said Morris advocated for a race war and the bombing of mosques and synagogues. They found evidence of Morris’s desire to participate in “lone wolf” terrorist attacks in Massachusetts, “culminating in a plan to drive a truck bomb into the Massachusetts State House.”
Pespisa and Webber said that in light of the Morris case, it is apparent that the threat posed by NSC goes beyond harassment and assaults on the street. With NSC doing everything they can to make minority groups feel unwelcome in New England and the threat of terrorism looming, the couple said the government’s response has been woefully inadequate.
But Webber and Pespisa aren’t the only activists disappointed with the government’s response to NSC’s activities — and they aren’t the only ones willing to do something about it. At the time of Webber’s courthouse confrontation with NSC members, a team of veterans at the national nonprofit Task Force Butler were compiling a damning 300-page report on the Nazi group’s illegal activities. As NSC bragged about the violence outside the courthouse, Task Force Butler analyzed the footage frame-by-frame. They identified the individuals involved and added it to the long list of NSC’s violence, intimidation, and threats in a report on the Nazi group.
Task Force Butler hopes law enforcement will use the report to hold NSC legally accountable for racketeering, among other crimes. “These trolls thrive in darkness,” Kris Goldsmith, the CEO of Task Force Butler, said in a May 3 interview with the Justice. “When you shine a spotlight on them, they shrink like violets.”
Community organizations fight back
Ernst Jean-Jacques, known as Shimmy, is a Boston civil rights activist. He created the Freedom Fighters Coalition to bring together social justice organizers for marches and community events. What he didn’t expect was that the organization’s Instagram page would become a hub for sharing videos and information about white nationalist groups' activity in the Boston area, mainly NSC-131 and Patriot Front.
Not long after the Coalition’s inception, folks who came across white supremacist banners, flyers, and groups began sending Jean-Jacques picture and video proof. He would share them to the Freedom Fighter account’s growing follower base. He wanted people to see what was happening in their own city, and make even a small dent in the widespread lack of awareness among the general public about fascist groups in Massachusetts. “Not posting about them and pretending like they don't exist, that’s not gonna help. … These people are here in this state, whether people want to accept it or agree with it or not, they’re here,” he told the Justice during a May 11 interview.
“Garfield” or @AntifaGarfield on Twitter, is an anonymous New England researcher tracking and publicizing NSC-131’s activities with a similar mindset to Jean-Jacques. Garfield identified Liam MacNeil in 2021, alongside other members of NSC-131. “A significant body of my work has been tracking and identifying NSC since their early days, and while they of course are still a huge threat to communities across New England, antifascists, researchers, and everyday community members have been a constant barrier … against the violence NSC hopes to inflict,” they told the Justice in a May 21 correspondence. “It’s been demonstrated time and time again that police are not willing to take action … so it often falls on communities to defend themselves.”
To their point, it’s not just individual activists and intelligence groups fighting back against Nazis in New England. Leftist, on-the-ground activism groups have organized counter-protests that far outnumber, and often drown out, NSC’s hateful demonstrations and chants.
On Dec. 10, 2022, members of NSC-131 showed up outside the Fall River Public Library during a monthly drag storytime event. They shouted slurs and performed Nazi salutes as families entered and left the library. A video montage posted by NSC days later includes blurred footage that appears to show members rushing toward the library entrance and physically attacking a small group of people standing in front of the doors in support of the event happening inside. The masked men injured and threatened several people involved with the story time event. Two of the people assaulted said the police present did little to stop the Nazi’s violent behavior. The Fall River police department denied witnessing any violent incidents.
The following month, the Fall River library held another drag storytime. This time, however, a crowd of more than 100 people gathered outside the library to show support and protect the event from Nazis and right-wing extremists. Options Magazine reported that the Boston Democratic Socialist Association organized the demonstration. Members of groups including the South Coast LGBTQ+ Network and the leftist “community defense” organization John Brown Gun Club were present as well.
Sean Connell, who performs in drag as Miss Gloria and leads the Fall River storytimes, told Options she was “blown away” by all of the support: “We’re really trying to show the community here how much love and support we have and how much stronger love is than hate.”