PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Anti-Defamation League released a new report Thursday showing white supremacist propaganda incidents skyrocketed last year by 74% in Rhode Island, representing a similar trend seen throughout New England.
The Massachusetts-based anti-hate nonprofit, which tracks hate-related incidents throughout the country, released new data showing there were 142 incidents in Rhode Island during 2022.
“White supremacist propaganda has the dual and devious purpose to intimidate specific groups and lure others to join their hateful activities,” ADL New England interim regional director Peggy Shukur said in a statement.
“Too many of these groups have set New England as their home base. With deliberation and intention, they target their hate against Jewish, Black, Muslim and LGBTQ+ communities and non-white immigrants through despicable and disruptive stunts on freeway overpasses and public events,” she added.
The group defines propaganda activities to include the "mass distribution of antisemitic, racist and anti-LGBTQ+ fliers; the dissemination of stickers, banners, graffiti and posters; hateful laser projections on buildings and stadiums and in-person white supremacist gatherings, among other events."
The reported incidents in Rhode Island included a flurry of pamphlets distributed across multiple East and West bay communities last July. The league attributed that effort to an organization called Patriot Front, which it described as a "white supremacist group."
In November, Warwick police investigated after packages containing antisemitic messages were scattered around the Oakland Beach neighborhood overnight. The packages had pellets and fliers inside with words including, "Defcon 3 on Jewish people," along with an image of Kanye West and a crossed-out Star of David.
The league attributed that effort to the Goyim Defense League, which it described as an "antisemitic group."
Shukur said these groups often try to disguise themselves and their messaging, but ultimately the goal is to "incite people to act." The reported incidents have been growing regionally at a faster clip than nationally.
According to the league, incidents nearly doubled across New England states, excluding Connecticut, which the group reports separately. Nationwide, the nonprofit reported incidents increasing about 38% to nearly 4,900 incidents compared to a year earlier.
In Massachusetts, incidents increased 72% to 465 in 2022. New Hampshire saw incidents more than triple to 183. Vermont incidents increased 6% to 131, and Maine incidents grew by 50%, totaling 30 in 2022.
Eli Sherman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.
Matt Paddock contributed to this report.