MERIDEN — Local civil rights leaders and social justice advocates this week expressed concern over racist flyers left in Meriden and surrounding towns promoting a white supremacist organization.
The flyers claim to be from the New England Nationalist Social Club, a hate group that operates in New England since breaking apart from a southern affiliate, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Lorraine Winston, vice president of the Meriden-Wallingford NAACP, called for a united front to combat extremism.
“We’re living in scary times right now,” Winston said. “It’s very disappointing but I’m not surprised with all the rhetoric and hateful things going on in the world right now.”
Winston said the NAACP was aware of the flyers found in the Fowler Avenue area on the city’s west side, and is meeting soon to issue a formal statement and take possible action.
“The main thing is unity to get people to come together,” Winston said. “We need to unify and come together rather than spew this type of hate. We need to try to understand one another and that we’re all different. This type of rhetoric... all it’s going to do is divide this country further apart.”
NAACP President Kim Fisher said the group plans to reach out to church and civic leaders over potential rallies or events.
“We’re going to meet and discuss the next steps,” Fisher said.
White nationalist hate groups in the US have increased 55% throughout the Trump era, according to a May report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In a letter to the editor published in the Record-Journal, Elaine Donovan, of the Social Justice Committee of the United Universalist Church in Meriden, responded to the timing of the flyer, dropped over the July 4th weekend, and its description of the Black Lives Matter movement as a “criminal,” “anti-white street gang.”
“Black Lives Matter is a movement for people of all colors advocating and demanding equal justice under the law,” Donovan wrote. “It is not a ‘gang.’ There is nothing more American than standing up against injustice. When the majority of Americans saw the injustice done to George Floyd and others, they understood why the Black Lives Matter movement was important and approved.”
Donovan decried the action to recruit on July 4th as “the opposite of what our country is about, ‘that all men (and women) are created equal.’ We support and advocate for equal justice for all.”
Donovan and others called for people to stand up and unite against hate.
“We would like to see all the good people of Meriden and all the churches of Meriden stand up and speak up against this hatred and division, sown by white supremacists, and the violence that it breeds. Please join us and “Side with Love,’” she wrote.
The New England Nationalist Social Club is also called NSC-131 and has been recently involved in recruitment and protest activity in the greater Boston area and in Rhode Island, experts say. Attorney generals from New England states have labeled the group a street gang, according to a recent report from NPR. Several communities in Connecticut have organized unity rallies opposing the group’s recent recruitment push. ‘Unsettling’
The discovery of the flyers disturbed residents who found them scattered in the streets and on lawns. Similar flyers were found in the towns of Berlin, Southington, West Hartford and Bristol during the same weekend.
“It is unsettling, to say the least,” said Erin Walton, who lives across from Hubbard Park. “I know that groups like these exist, but I didn’t expect to find them where I live — it just hit home for me.
Police received numerous complaints over the incident.
“At this time we are aware that the flyers were scattered in and around the Fowler Avenue area; however, aside from a possible littering violation, there were really no laws broken that we’ve been made aware of,” police spokesman Darren McKay stated in an email. “...At this time we will continue to monitor the city for any other similar instances and should we receive any complaint(s) of something that is deemed criminal, we will investigate accordingly.”