STAMFORD – City Rep. Bobby Pavia began getting calls and messages from his District 17 constituents Sunday morning.
Some were on their way to religious services that teach peace and brotherhood, but what they discovered in their yards was all about hate.
From the northern portion of that Springdale neighborhood, constituents told Pavia they were finding sealed plastic bags containing small rocks and a flyer.
They sent Pavia photos of the flyer, which was printed with a drawing of an armed Revolutionary War soldier and the words, “New Englanders! You are being replaced. Organize and resist!”
The back of the flyer showed a list of six New England states and their capital cities, and a percentage indicating how much “less white” each has become in the last 10 years.
People who got the flyers were rattled and disgusted, Pavia said. He alerted the offices of Mayor Caroline Simmons and Public Safety Director Lou DeRubeis, he said, then got on a social media site serving Springdale residents and asked that they contact police – particularly if they have outdoor security cameras – then let him know which streets received flyers.
“I continued to receive more calls about these flyers throughout the day,” Pavia said Monday.
The Stamford Police Department first heard about them about 9 p.m. Saturday, said Capt. Thomas Scanlon of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
Since then the department has had “30-40 citizens call us about the flyers,” Scanlon said Monday. “The areas we know of are Springdale, Pepper Ridge, and lower High Ridge neighborhoods.”
Stamford – like other towns in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island – is a target of a white supremacy group that, according to the Anti-Defamation League, started in eastern Massachusetts in late 2019.
The Nationalist Social Club had multistate and international chapters but refocused its attention on New England in 2021, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a group formed more than a century ago to fight bigotry and intolerance.
“The NSC has been active in Connecticut for the last year that we’re aware of,” said Stacey Sobel, Connecticut director of the Anti-Defamation League.
The NSC is a loose network of small chapters acting under their own rules, according to the Counter Extremism Project, a non-partisan international policy group that combats extremist threats. NSC is also known as NSC-131; the 131 is alphanumeric code for a-c-a, or anti-communist action, according to the Counter Extremism Project.
The flyers found in Springdale, Pepper Ridge and High Ridge refer to New England 131, likely a chapter of NSC-131.
“The flyers are in plastic bags so they won’t be destroyed if it rains. The rocks are in there so the bags don’t fly away,” Sobel said. “In other places in Connecticut we’ve seen oatmeal in the bags instead of rocks. People are taking time to make sure you get their message.”
It’s a tactic designed to intimidate with little risk that the perpetrators will get caught, Sobel said.
“Every person who receives a flyer wonders whether their neighbors are involved, whether people in their community will be recruited by this group,” she said. “Propaganda like this allows a small number of people to have an outsized impact on a community.”
According to the Counter Extremism Project, NSC-131 members see themselves at war with a system they believe is controlled by Jews and plots to destroy the white race. They seek to create an underground resistance network, and their tactics include antagonizing social-justice protesters, vandalism, unfurling banners on highway overpasses, posting stickers and distributing propaganda, according to the Counter Extremism Project.
Sobel said the Anti-Defamation League issued a report last week showing a 38 percent increase in incidents of white supremacist propaganda nationwide. But, she said, the increase in Connecticut was 115 percent – three times greater.
Ninety-six incidents were reported in Connecticut in 2021 and 207 incidents last year.
Last year the Anti-Defamation League counted the highest number of white supremacist propaganda incidents it has ever recorded, Sobel said.
Westport has seen its share, said Sal Liccione, a member of the Representative Town Meeting. So far this year there have been six incidents of racist vandalism, compared with one last year and two the previous year.
“I think elected officials should be more open about this. I would like to see a press conference, even a statewide one, to really combat this,” Liccione said. “It worries everybody. People see it and think this is a racist town when we are not. We shouldn’t keep it quiet because if people don’t know what’s going on they get more upset.”
Racist graffiti was discovered in a bathroom at Westport’s Compo Beach, at the state boat ramp, and the riverwalk around the public library. Then stickers appeared, including one showing handcuffed fists and the words “Free Occupied America.” The stickers are from the Patriot Front, a Texas group that the Anti-Defamation League says is responsible for most of the white supremacist propaganda in the U.S.
“I want to tell people that if they see something, say something right away,” Liccione said. “Call your local representative and police and the ADL. Be vigilant.”
“Make no mistake – this activity is coordinated and amplified online and it will increase until we launch a whole-of-society effort to combat it,” she said. “This includes having elected officials, community leaders and all people of good faith come together to combat this activity forcefully.”
Last year propaganda was reported in every state except Hawaii, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The 10 states with the most activity, in order from the highest level, were Texas, Massachusetts, Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Utah, Florida, Connecticut and Georgia.
Stamford police issued a statement Monday saying the department “will thoroughly investigate these incidents in collaboration with the state’s attorney’s office.” Anyone with information should call 203-977-4444, police said.
Simmons issued a statement saying the city “has a zero tolerance for hate speech against any person or group” and the administration “vehemently condemn(s) this disturbing behavior.”
“Ensuring residents feel safe after this unsettling behavior is our top priority,” Simmons said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, who represents much of Fairfield County, said “white supremacy has no place in our society.”
It does not reflect “our values in Connecticut, and is certainly not representative of the decency and respect that this community strives to model for our children and neighbors,” Himes said in a statement.
Elana Bildner, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said “racism and bigotry exist in Connecticut. It’s up to each of us to challenge and reject racism and bigotry at every turn.”
City Rep. Mary Fedeli, who also represents the Springdale neighborhood, said she heard about the hate-group flyers and rocks in plastic bags from Pavia.
“The whole thing is deplorable,” Fedeli said.