Among the dozens of rallies and street protests held across Boston in recent weeks, one at the foot of the State House last month stood out: There was a flag featuring a Nazi symbol, a swastika tattoo on one of the attendees, and a few men with shirts that read “Nationalist Social Club” — an organization that experts say is a New England white supremacist group.
A handful of men affiliated with that group attended the “Restore Sanity” rally on June 27, where they brandished a flag featuring a sonnenrad, which, according to the Anti-Defamation League, was “one of a number of ancient European symbols appropriated by the Nazis in their attempt to invent an idealized ‘Aryan/Norse’ heritage.”
While their presence at that pro-police and antirioting demonstration was the most blatantly public showing, the organization has been active in the region in recent weeks, with members attending a handful of other local demonstrations, according to analysts and a member of the organization.
Experts describe the group as having a virulently racist ideology.
“You’ve got a fairly devout group of Neo-Nazis involved in this group,” said Carla Hill, a research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center On Extremism. “They like to trigger people, upset people, and troll people.”
Christopher Hood Jr., a 21-year-old who said he grew up in Dorchester, was among the members of the white supremacist group at the rally. Over the phone last week, Hood, who called himself the group’s spokesman, said the Nationalist Social Club formed in December and its members had showed up at five demonstrations in Boston in recent weeks, distributing materials at three.
“We’re asserting ourselves publicly,” Hood said.
At the State House rally, one man in the group had a visible swastika tattoo on his calf. He was identified as Anthony Petruccelli, who has ties to Lynn, by Samson Racioppi, a rally organizer; by Hill, the research fellow; and by Ben Lorber, a research analyst who focuses on white nationalism and anti-Semitism for Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank in Somerville.
Lorber said the Nationalist Social Club embraces anti-Black racism and described the group as being deeply anti-Semitic as well.
Asked about the terms used to describe his group — racist, white supremacist, and Nazi — Hood said at one point, “If anyone calls me them, I don’t tell them they’re wrong.” At a different point during the interview, he said he does not think white people are inherently superior to anyone else. But when asked if he considered himself to be racist, he answered, “Sure.”
Hood contended his group is “not inclined to commit violence,” but Lorber described the organization’s ideology as combining Neo-Nazism and violent white supremacy with a “commitment to street mobilizations and direct action, including sympathy for ‘accelerationist’ tactics.” Lorber said accelerationist white supremacists seek to commit acts of terror intended to incite a race war they hope would lead to the collapse of the existing social and political order, after which they could establish a “new all-white society.”
“They hope to capitalize on the resentment, anger, and alienation felt by some white Americans in this moment, to win new recruits to the violent white supremacist cause,” said Lorber, speaking about the Nationalist Social Club.
Hood rejected the accelerationist label for his group, referring to such an ideology as “stupid” and “mental masturbation.” He acknowledged being previously involved in two white supremacist groups — Patriot Front and The Base — before the Nationalist Social Club.
While Lorber said Hood was the leader of the club’s New England chapter, Hood claimed the group has no formal leadership. Hill said Hood has described himself as a founding member of the group, and she said that a founder “would be a presumed leader.”
Hood was arrested on a weapons charge in East Boston last year after police found a pocket knife in his possession in an incident authorities connected to the posting of fliers promoting white supremacy in that neighborhood. However, in June, a judge disagreed with the premise that the officers had reasonable suspicion to conduct the stop that led to Hood’s arrest and found the justification for pat-frisking Hood and others in his group then was meritless.
The judge’s ruling suppressed evidence seized from the stop, a victory for Hood.
In the recent phone interview, Hood declined to discuss a range of topics.
He did not say why he gravitated toward white supremacist groups and would not disclose the names of other members of the Nationalist Social Club who were at the rally in front of the State House and whether the group was at the violence in the heart of Boston on May 31. Nor did he delve into his Dorchester upbringing. He did not say in which community he currently lives, although he did say he resides in Massachusetts.
Hood wouldn’t get into specific numbers concerning the group’s membership either.
Hill, the researcher with the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said there might be a dozen members in the group’s New England chapter, adding that such an estimate could be generous.
Lorber said the club is also active in Tennessee and Central Florida, “where their messaging includes explicit support for Hitler” and opposition to the removal of Confederate monuments.
During recent weeks, club members showed up at a Black Lives Matter rally in the South End and hung a banner from a Boston overpass reading “New England is ours,” according to Lorber. They have also placed stickers advertising their group in Worcester ahead of a recent Black Lives Matter rally, among other activities, he said.
In late May, in a message posted to the messaging platform Telegram, a group stated, “White men need to be forming tight-knit leaderless & autonomous militant collectives in our inner cities . . . There must be bands of white men everywhere that can secure white well being where we will become an increasing minority in an increasingly hostile climate.”
Two experts — Lorber and Megan Squire, an Elon University professor — told the Globe the page belonged to the Nationalist Social Club’s local chapter.
Jack McDevitt, the director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice, has studied hate crime for 30 years. White supremacy groups tend to splinter, he said, with supremacists forming factions online, where they encourage violence against police and people of color. Sometimes they urge their members to go to rallies to foment antigovernment violence, or at least convey that sentiment, he said. There are many groups, but they tend to be small in size, he said.
McDevitt said “we have to understand they’re very dangerous.” He added that it would be in law enforcement’s interest to monitor them. He thought the presence of the Nationalist Social Club at the State House rally was not surprising, “but it is depressing.”
At the rally, some of the at least half-dozen men in the group had T-shirts that read “Nationalist Social Club.” At least two wore masks. Another had a T-shirt with a Confederate flag on it.
The June 27 rally was organized by Super Happy Fun America, the group with ties to the far right behind last year’s controversial Straight Pride Parade.
Speakers at the June State House rally publicly denounced the white supremacists in their midst. Organizers have said they asked police to remove them to no avail.
Nationalist Social Club members have attended Super Happy Fun America events in the past, including a May 30 demonstration calling for the reopening of the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic. John Hugo, president of Super Happy Fun America, acknowledged in an e-mail to the Globe that the Nationalist Social Club, which he referred to as “scum bags,” showed up to the reopen rally.
Additionally, Petruccelli marched in the Straight Pride Parade last Aug. 31, carrying a banner advertising T-shirts, according to Racioppi, chairman of Super Happy Fun America. Racioppi said if the group had known who he was, he would have been excluded from that event. Attempts to reach Petruccelli last week were not successful. An intermediary said Petruccelli did not want to be interviewed.
Hood also said he had attended events held by Resist Marxisms, a group with multiple connections to Super Happy Fun America, in years past.
Racioppi said any accusation that his organization is normalizing ideologies like those espoused by the Nationalist Social Club is false.
Hugo, in an e-mail, described himself as a right-of-center Republican who supports limited government. He said he despises Nazis. He also noted his group had people of color speak at the June 27 rally.
But Robert Trestan, the New England regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said Super Happy Fun America has become “a magnet in Massachusetts for other extremists.”
“Every time they do something public, they attract extremists and bigots, anti-Semites and racists,” he said.