Nova Anglia Rising: New England’s Far Right Movement
New England, or specifically the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut, has generally been perceived as a liberal democratic stronghold, and a consistent mainstay of support for the Democratic Party. This would be a fair assessment in terms of electoral politics, as New England has overwhelmingly voted for the Democratic candidate in the 2016 and 2020 elections. And in the 2018 midterm elections, New England also largely voted democratic or left-leaning candidates into the Senate and House of Representatives. However, this sweeping evaluation of New England as an overwhelmingly liberal region is primarily based on electoral politics and is thus somewhat inaccurate. In reality, New England is the home of a sizable far right-wing movement that is becoming increasingly important on the national stage. While this movement’s organizational ability is, at best, incoherent, the movement is increasingly being admired by the far-right nationwide, and more importantly, it is becoming increasingly dangerous.
Photo Courtesy: Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
Perhaps the most well known example of New England’s far right movement is the ill fated Straight Pride Parade of 2019, and the group that organized it, Super Happy Fun America (SHFA). The parade, which took place on Aug. 31, 2019 was an intentional act of homophobic provocation, as well as the event of the season for the American northeast’s far right community. The event brought together a mix of about 200 supporters of former president Donald Trump, neo-Nazis, and other far right activists, but was dwarfed by roughly 1,000 counter protesters and nationwide outrage. While the event itself largely failed, it revitalized the organizing efforts of far right activist Mark Sahady, who founded SHFA out of the ruins of another, more violent group, Resist Marxism. SHFA toned down the extreme branding and street violence of Resist Marxism, which according to investigative journalist Luke Barnes, organized a number of violent extreme right rallies in the New England area which drew members of far right groups such as the Proud Boys, and were intentionally designed to provoke local leftists and lead to violent street fights. SHFA and it’s organizers have continued since 2019 to organize pro-Trump and anti-mask events across New England, but have been largely inactive since two leading members of the group, Mark Sahady and Suzanne Ianni, were arrested and charged in connection to the storming of the United States Capitol building by far right supporters of Donald Trump.
SHFA and it’s predecessor, Resist Marxism, have maintained links to open neo-fascists and neo-Nazis. Luke Barnes, details SHFA’s close association with members of the neo-fascist group Patriot Front, a consistent player in the New England far-right scene. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Patriot Front was founded in 2017 following the disastrous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Patriot Front has called for a white ethnostate, and members frequently participate in group acts of far right vandalism and hand to hand combat training. While Patriot Front is based out of Grapevine, Texas, where their founder, Thomas Rousseau lives, the group has a very strong presence in New England.
While membership of Patriot Front is difficult to gauge, Massachusetts and Vermont have a specifically high concentration of Patriot Front activity, and according to an SPLC report on public flyering committed by hate groups, Massachusetts has seen one of the highest concentration of Patriot Front flyering in the nation, with over 400 instances of white supremacist propaganda distributed as of the end of 2020. While unreliable and potentially inflated for propaganda purposes, posts made by Patriot Front themselves report that throughout 2021 Massacusetts has been ranked several times as a “top 5 state” in terms of Patriot Front propaganda actions. According to their social media posts and media news reports, Patriot Front is also responsible for a number of acts of white supremacist vandalism, and have held group meetups in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Patriot Front’s large presence in New England is not simply a local concern. Several Patriot Front members from New England have been arrested for charges related to white supremacist vandalism.
While Patriot Front exists as a national organization, it helped give birth to a local neo-Nazi group that sees itself a “pro-white” street gang. According to the Anti Defamation League, Nationalist Social Club was started by the ex-Patriot Front regional organizer Christopher Hood. Beginning as a small network called New England Nationalists Club, NSC brought together a disparate population of far right hangers on, ranging from middle aged skinheads to young, internet savvy fascists, all of which wanted to create an openly neo-Nazi and specifically New England oriented group. Despite being local to New England, NSC grew in 2020 to become an international group, with, according to the ADL, chapters in Indiana, Tennessee, Texas, and even in Germany and Bulgaria. However, in a flurry of online neo-Nazi drama, NSC’s main New England chapter broke with other chapters and asserted that it was a group strictly confined to New England and all non-New England chapters were no longer considered NSC.
NSC sees itself as a militaristic street fighting force with the goal of purging New England of leftists, LGBTQIA+ people, Jewish people, and non-white people. NSC sees New England as the ideal region for a white ethnostate due to its large majority white population, and draws heavily on historic instances of New England racism, such as Boston’s 1974 Busing Riots. Geographically, NSC’s membership is mainly concentrated in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but they claim to have membership in all New England states. Luckily, the group as a whole has never committed organized acts of violence, but NSC members have been responsible for numerous acts of neo-Nazi vandalism and agressive public appearences, such as an extremely anti-Semitic flashmob at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston. Individual members, however, have been arrested for serious charges such as one member for felony firearm charges, and another for child pornography. While only numbering about 30 members at its height, NSC’s networking capabilities and well staged propaganda helped put the New England neo-Nazi movement on the map, and gave it a disproportionately oversized role in the national far-right.
Bonafide neo-Nazi terror groups have also come to operate out of New England. Two founding members of the notorious neo-Nazi terror group Atomwaffen Division were Massachusetts natives. Andrew Oneschuck and Jeremy Himmelman helped Florida National Guardsman Brandon Russell recruit for his budding terror group on an online neo-Nazi forum Iron March, and by 2017, were living with Russell in his Tampa apartment. Oneschuck and Himmelman were murdered in August 2017, when another member of the group living with Russell, Devon Arthurs, killed them over a religious disagreement. Russell was subsequently convicted for having illegal bomb making materials and was accused by Arthurs of planning to bomb nuclear reactors and synagogues.
These two Massachusetts natives would not be the last members of neo-Nazi terror groups in New England. In November 2019 members of the neo-Nazi terror group The Base placed fliers around Boston University's campus. The author of this article personally removed several of them. According to investigative journalists at Vice News, Chris Hood, NSC’s founder, was a main organizer in the New England cell of The Base. Members of The Base have been arrested across the globe for crimes ranging from assassination plots, to vandalizing synagogues, to burning down a mink farm in Sweden. This development of explicitly violent neo-Nazis in New England, which acts as a microcosm of the growing neo-Nazi terror movement nationwide, is a hugely concerning trend and one that is central to the contemporary New England extreme right.
Surprisingly enough, far right figures from outside New England have been heavily attracted to the area as well. Most recently, a network of neo-Nazis led by a former Marine from San Antonio have pushed for a migration of white supremacists to rural areas of northern Maine, in order to create the beginnings of a small white ethnostate. According to Ben Makuch for Vice News, white supremacists online are attracted to Maine’s majority white population, and seek to create a rural community of white supremacist families. While this has yet to materialize, it remains an ominous reminder of white supremacist interest in New England.
Overall, despite these main players, there are any number of additional far-right activists and groupuscules scattered around New England. However, by laying out a general landscape of the far-right movement in New England, it is clear that despite the region’s reputation as a stronghold of liberal politics, the far right is more than alive and well. New England’s far-right movement has been actively networking and serving as a beacon of admiration for groups and networks across the nation. New England and its active far-right movement serve as an important reminder that electoral politics do not always show the whole picture of an area's politics and that far-right movements can occur anywhere. Many incorrectly assume that areas that swing conservative have a considerable far-right population, while areas that mainly vote liberal have an insignificant number of far right elements. This not only creates inaccurate regional generalizations, but more importantly it lowers people’s concern for potentially violent far-right political movements. Many living in areas perceived to be liberal or left leaning take on a “it can’t happen here” approach to the far-right, which only emboldens the far right to pursue acts of intimidation and violence upon marginalized communities. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other far-right adherents can and do exist everywhere, and it does not take a huge number of people to create a violent street movement. Therefore, communities in New England and across the country must be aware and vigilant of the extreme right and their ability to organize in order to create more equitable communities free from intimidation and violence against marginalized communities.