White supremacist fliers in West Hartford just one part of a surge in bias incidents across the state, ADL Connecticut says – Hartford Courant

A week after white supremacist fliers were scattered across a West Hartford neighborhood, the town is asking residents to notify police if they get similar leaflets or witness other forms of hate incidents or hate crimes.

With bias attacks on the rise nationally, police in Connecticut want to track exactly what’s happening and where, West Hartford officials and anti-bigotry groups said at a press conference Monday.

Police Chief Vernon Riddick said an important part of combatting such attacks is ensuring that investigators have up-to-date information about incidents targeting people based on bias.

“Information is king. (The recent fliers) could be a precursor to a crime — if you have these inflammatory, hateful thoughts, that could lead to violence because you have emotion. If it’s driven by emotion and hate, that’s a bad recipe,” Riddick said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal visited West Hartford on Monday morning to encourage the town to apply for funding from the Jabar-Heyer No Hate Act, a bill he championed that provides $5 million in federal grants to improve hate crime reporting systems.

Blumenthal cautioned that non-violent incidents like the flier distribution could lead to worse incidents.

“What you see here is almost the beginning of the spread of a virus much like COVID. COVID is contagious and so is hate speech and hate crime — the two are linked,” Blumenthal said. “But courage is contagious also. The citizens who stand up to it are to be commended.”

Police estimated more than 100 fliers were left overnight outside homes near the Fairview Cemetery; police said some were dumped from a moving car, others were distributed to individual homes. The papers purported to come from the New England National Socialist Club, which the ADL has labeled as a neo-Nazi organization.

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“We stand for the security and prosperity of white New Englanders,” it read, and referred to Black Lives Matter as a “criminal, anti-American and anti-white street gang.” The flier said the group is building “a network of likeminded men & women dedicated to defending their lands and their people.”

Stacy Sobel, director of ADL Connecticut, said the fliers are just one example of a wave of racist and anti-Semitic incidents across the station and the nation.

“When West Hartford woke up last week to find white supremacist propaganda fliers strewn around this beautiful town, there is fear,” Sobel said. “An ADL recent report measured a 20-fold increase in the last four years in white supremacist propaganda, stickers, fliers and banners here in Connecticut.”

David Warren, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, said he and Blumenthal have spoken together over the years at many gatherings concerned with rising hate incidents.

“Never did we imagine the level of bigotry, the expansion of hate groups and the explosion of hate crimes that we are now witnessing,” Warren said. “Last year the FBI reported 2021 was the highest level of hate crime reporting in 12 years across the country.”

Warren commended West Hartford for transparency about the most recent incident.

“The measure of a community is not whether hate crimes occur — hate crimes and bias incidents will occur in almost every community, corporation or school,” Warren said. “The measure of a community is how it responds.”

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