White nationalist banner found hanging over Belt Parkway
BY MEAGHAN MCGOLDRICK AND PAULA KATINAS
BAY RIDGE — A massive handmade banner promoting a white nationalist website was discovered hanging over a Belt Parkway overpass on Saturday.
The banner, tied to the 80th Street pedestrian overpass in Bay Ridge, was spotted days after posters for the same organization were found nearby, and as the city confronts a surge of anti-Semitic attacks.
In response, 11 neighborhood grassroots organizations banded together during a rally on Sunday, Jan. 5. The groups met at the corner of Third Avenue and 86th Street — near where one of the posters was found — to form a human chain along the avenue and rally for peace. The human chain, organizers said, was meant to demonstrate attendees’ willingness to protect their neighbors.
“It’s clear that if we don’t combat this hate in our neighborhood these groups will continue recruiting and escalate their behavior. This is why a show of solidarity is so important at this time,” said Mallory McMahon, co-founder of Fight Back Bay Ridge, which helped lead the response. “We outnumber them and will make Bay Ridge inhospitable to white nationalism. They won’t win. This will only make us stronger in our unity.”
The rally began at 2 p.m.
The banner seen Saturday didn’t carry any explicit message of hate, reading only “Defend American Labor.” It had the address for the website of the nationalist group, known as Patriot Front.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy organization that monitors hate groups and other extremists in the United States, has identified the Patriot Front as a white nationalist hate group. The Patriot Front is a splinter group that broke off from a larger organization, Vanguard America, following the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In that incident, clashes between white supremacist groups and protesters grew violent, resulting in the death of one protester, Heather Heyer. Heyer was killed when a man plowed his car into a group of protesters.
The Anti-Defamation League’s website describes the Patriot Front as an organization that “falls into the alt-right segment of the white supremacist movement but presents itself as a ‘patriotic’ nationalist group.”
“We’re very concerned,” Rachel Grinspan, associate regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Friday. “Any form of extremist rhetoric is a concern, especially to see it popping up in a local neighborhood like Bay Ridge.”
Recruitment posters for the group began appearing around the neighborhood around the New Year, generating outrage as officials scrambled to find out who was responsible.
“Bay Ridge is home to several communities to whom white supremacy poses a mortal danger, so we should treat anyone responsible for these posters or their apologists accordingly,” said Noah Abraham Weston, a Bay Ridge resident who first shared a photo of the poster on Twitter. “These posters aren’t an innocent act of free speech or an invitation to discuss idea. They’re a tool for Neo-Nazi recruitment.”
Since Thursday, Councilmember Justin Brannan, State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Assemblymembers Mathylde Frontus and Nicole Malliotakis and Rep. Max Rose have spoken out against the recruitment posters.
The appearance of an active white nationalist group in Brooklyn comes as anti-Semitic incidents in New York City are up 21 percent as of last Sunday, according to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea. Police received at least eight reports of possible anti-Semitic bias incidents around the city since Dec. 13. A number of the attacks took place over the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for information.
Other co-sponsors of Sunday’s event included the Arab American Association of New York, Arab Women’s Voice, Bay Ridge for Social Justice, NYC Democratic Socialists of America, Gravesend Brooklyn Progressives, Indivisible Nation BK, Mexican-American Movement, South Brooklyn Progressive Network, South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance and Take on Hate.
“These groups encourage violence, and use these flyers both to recruit others to their cause and to terrorize our neighbors,” said Alan Holt of Fight Back Bay Ridge, the group spearheading Sunday’s event. “We must counter that.”
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