BRATTLEBORO — White nationalists demonstrated with a big sign in Pliny Park on Saturday, prompting outrage in the community.
“NO REDS IN VT!” the sign read in a photograph shared widely via Facebook.
A website on the sign brings visitors to a page with “official updates and outreach account account for the Nationalist Social Club of Vermont,” which includes a member count of 66.
During annual Representative Town Meeting held remotely Saturday, Bethany Ranquist of District 1 announced the news to fellow Town Meeting members. She said the group was yelling hateful and racist things.
Nationalist Social Club is described on the Anti-Defamation League’s website as “a neo-Nazi group with small, autonomous regional chapters in the United States and abroad,” with members seeing themselves as “soldiers at war with a hostile, Jewish-controlled system that is deliberately plotting the extinction of the white race.”
“NSC seeks to form an underground network of white men who are willing to fight against their perceived enemies through localized direct actions,” the site states. “NSC espouses racism, antisemitism and intolerance via the Internet, propaganda distributions and the use of graffiti. NSC participates in localized flash demonstrations, counter-protests, and makes appearances at mainstream events. NSC engages in schemes to troll or otherwise harass those who oppose them.”
The group also goes by the name 131 Crew. The number is alphanumeric code for ACA or Anti Communist Action, according to the site.
Town Manager Peter Elwell told the Reformer no permits were requested nor granted for the group to gather in Pliny Park.
“The Brattleboro Police Department is aware of a demonstration that occurred in downtown Brattleboro Saturday afternoon,” said Mark Carignan, interim police chief. “We monitored the participants for a period of time and observed their physical conduct to be nonviolent. Later, police received a report from a resident of verbally threatening behavior by one of the demonstrators. That complaint is being investigated, and if probable cause is found that a crime was committed, arrests will be made.”
Carignan added, “While it is not the business of police to make enforcement decisions based on the content of first amendment-protected speech, we believe that hate and intolerance have no place in our community. We are individually and collectively appalled by messages of racism and bigotry, but are compelled by our sworn duty to uphold the constitution and protect the legal speech rights of everyone.”
This story was updated at 7:10 p.m. Saturday, March 20, to include information and comments from Interim Police Chief Mark Carignan.