Judge dismisses trespass complaints against white nationalists for banners on overpass
|Published: 06-06-2023 2:17 PM
A New Hampshire judge has dismissed trespassing complaints against white nationalist extremists who prosecutors say displayed “Keep New England White” banners without a permit from an overpass last July.
Two members of the group, known as NSC-131 or the Nationalist Social Club, had asked the court to dismiss the trespass complaints. The judge agreed Monday, saying prosecutors’ interpretation of the state’s Civil Rights Act was unconstitutionally overbroad.
The New Hampshire attorney general’s office had said the two men were motivated by race and trespassed on public property when they draped the banners off the highway overpass in Portsmouth.
The Anti-Defamation League describes NSC-131 as a New England-based neo-Nazi group founded in 2019 that “espouses racism, antisemitism and intolerance” and whose “membership is a collection of neo-Nazis and racist skinheads, many of whom have previous membership in other white supremacist groups.”
New Hampshire prosecutors will be filing a motion for reconsideration within the 10-day deadline, said spokesperson Michael Garrity. “The Attorney General feels this is a critical case,” he said by email on Tuesday. The Nationalist Social Club did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday.
The overpass episode began July 30, 2022 when Portsmouth police received 911 calls about the banners, according to the complaints. When officers responded, they saw about 10 men on the overpass wearing hats, sunglasses and face coverings emblazoned with “NSC-131,” or “131.” One of the men, who wasn’t wearing those items, appeared to be the leader and spoke with police.
The officers said the banners couldn’t hang from the overpass without a permit. The man gave the group instructions to remove the banners while some members continued to display the banners by hand before returning to their vehicles and leaving.
The man was accused of two civil rights violations. Another man who told police “You’re not interfering with my friends and interfering with our rights,” was also named in the complaints.
In March 2022, about a dozen masked members of NSC-131 attended South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade as spectators, and held up a banner that said “Keep Boston Irish.” Their appearance was denounced by the parade’s organizers and Mayor Michelle Wu.