Saugus, MA – Leaders in multiple Massachusetts communities are denouncing a neo-Nazi group for displaying antisemitic banners from highway overpasses over the weekend.
The incidents happened Saturday evening as one banner was held from an overpass on Route 1 in Saugus, while the other was held from an overpass on Route 114 in Danvers.
Saugus police said they received multiple complaints at about 6 p.m. Saturday regarding a hateful and false message on a banner that was being held by several men, who had their faces covered with masks.
Danvers town officials said that at about 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 masked people gathered on the Rail Trail bridge and held a large banner displaying a “false, destructive and divisive” antisemitic message related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Through social media, the Nationalist Social Club (NSC-131) claimed responsibility for hanging the banners. The Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League both identify NSC-131 as a neo-Nazi group.
“I think these are outside agitators who look to create drama,” said Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman, of Chabad of Peabody. “I think they are scaredy cats, for lack of a better word on the spot — wearing masks rather than being confident in their own hate.”
“Massachusetts is not immune from this kind of activity and, in fact, the group that’s responsible was founded in 2019 in Worcester. So they’re from here,” said Robert Trestan, regional director for the ADL of New England.
Despite the hateful subject of their message, Saugus police determined that the group of men who held the antisemitic banner was not breaking laws. The department, however, did rebuke the actions of those men.
“While the First Amendment protects one’s legal right to speech, the Saugus Police Department condemns the hateful messages displayed in our community and we condemn antisemitism and hate in all its forms,” the department said in a statement.
In a joint statement, Danvers town officials also condemned the actions of the people that held the antisemitic banner in their town.
“We want to be clear that we reject this hateful, antisemitic and discriminatory behavior. Not only does this incident spread hate, but it perpetuates misinformation regarding 9/11,” reads the joint statement from Danvers officials. “Groups like this also try to deny and obscure the brutal truth surrounding the atrocities committed against Jewish people, other marginalized groups and their supporters during the Holocaust.”
Saugus police said they notified the ADL of New England about the incident and shared the following statement from Trestan:
“On September 11, a day when we remember a great tragedy experienced by our country and the loss of too many, a number of highway overpasses in our commonwealth were tarnished with antisemitic banners, held by cowardly masked extremists, blaming these terrorist attacks on Jews. The scapegoating of the Jewish community is an age-old but exceedingly harmful antisemitic trope that must be called out and condemned whenever and wherever it occurs. Using this tragedy to spread false, destructive and divisive narratives harms our communities and sense of security and disgraces the memory of the victims from that day. Join us in condemning these activities and in recommitting ourselves to upholding our community values of justice.”