A Riverhead man reports removing at least seven posters promoting the white nationalist group Patriot Front in downtown Riverhead this month.
Kristopher Geraci, who lives in the downtown area and walks to his job on Main Street, said he discovered the posters on the evening of Feb. 8 and the following morning.
The posters bore messages like “Keep America American – Report any and all illegal aliens. They are criminals” and “Better dead than red” as well as the Patriot Front web address.
They were posted on utility poles on Ostrander Avenue and Corwin Street, on a utility box near the railroad crossing on Ostrander, on two pilings on the riverfront dock near the aquarium and on the vacant building formerly occupied by a Subway shop on East Main Street, Geraci said.
Geraci said he did not report the posters to police. “I took down about seven of these disgusting posters,” he said. “I threw them away.”
Riverhead Police have had two reports of Patriot Front posters, according to Chief David Hegermiller. The first one was discovered at the end of January on Edwards Avenue in Baiting Hollow and a second was found on a utility pole at the corner of Pulaski Street and Hamilton Avenue in Polish Town.
Police have not identified anyone locally associated with Patriot Front, Hegermiller said.
Hegermiller said Riverhead Police notified the Suffolk County Police Department hate crimes unit and its criminal intel unit of both reports. The chief hesitated, though, when asked if people should report such incidents to police.
“What’s illegal?” he asked. “It’s freedom of speech. To me, I’d like to know who’s doing it. I’d like to keep track of what’s happening. But then again, what have they done?”
“Patriot Front is a direct descendant of the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America, which figured prominently at the Charlottesville rally,” according to Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and reports on hate crimes across the country. “Vanguard America dissolved into chaos after a leadership feud” following the deadly August 2017 rally.
Thomas Rousseau of Texas, then 18, who had marched with Vanguard America in Charlottesville formed his own breakaway group, Patriot Front, Southern Poverty Law Center reports.
“While Patriot Front has been fond of posting flyers like one with an image of the U.S. and the words ‘Not Stolen Conquered,’ the group has taken to street activism marked by violent intimidation tactics as well,” Southern Poverty Law Center says in the spring edition of its “Intelligence Report,” which the group released on Tuesday.
The report includes SPLC’s annual hate group count and analysis. SPLC found 2018 was the fourth straight year of hate group growth — a 30 percent increase since 2014, following three consecutive years of decline.
FBI statistics show that hate crimes also increased by 30 percent in the three-year period ending in 2017. The FBI has not yet released figures for 2018. Hate crime incidents fell by about 12 percent from 2012 through 2014, according to the FBI data.
“While the fallout from the Charlottesville rally crippled some white nationalist groups, it birthed Patriot Front, whose membership is increasing while its tactics are become more violent and confrontational,” according to the SPLC report.
“We have zero tolerance for any kind of racism, bigotry or hatred,” Riverhead Anti-Bias Task Force chairperson Connie Lassandro said in an interview today.
“It might be free speech, but if it’s racially motivated bigotry and bias, we’d like to know about it,” Lassandro said.
She asked people to report to the anti-bias task force any flyers, posters and graffiti containing hate speech or supporting hate groups. Incidents can be reported by email or by calling the Anti-Bias Task Force at (631)727-3200 Ext 303.
“We denounce groups such as Patriot Front,” Lassandro said.
“We denounce groups such as Patriot Front,” Lassandro said. “Everyone is entitled to feel safe and respected.”
Patriot Front activists have been putting up posters and banners all across the country. An @PatriotFront2 Twitter account has dozens of posts this month showing flyers and posters like the ones Geraci found and the one discovered in Polish Town that was reported Monday by the Riverhead News-Review. There were no tweets depicting any posters put up in Riverhead, but the account tweeted out images of the same or similar posters hung in Port Jefferson and at Stony Brook University.
#PatriotFront activists placed posters around Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York. pic.twitter.com/S6sQWKVvqP
— Patriot Front (@PatriotFront2) February 15, 2019
Editor’s note: Bias and incidents can also be reported anonymously to the Documenting Hate project being undertaken by Pro Publica in partnership with news organizations across the country, including RiverheadLOCAL, to document bias incidents. More information about the Documenting Hate project here.
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