Boston police arrested the founder of a neo-Nazi group Saturday in Jamaica Plain where he was leading about 20 masked men demonstrating outside a historic mansion where families had gathered for a children’s drag queen story hour, police and witnesses said.
Christopher R. Hood Jr., 23, of Pepperell, was charged with affray and disturbing the peace, according to Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a police spokesman. Hood leads the Nationalist Social Club 131 or NSC-131, which was established in 2019, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL and Southern Poverty Law Center have classified NSC-131 as a neo-Nazi group.
The presence of Hood and his followers outside the Loring Greenough House marked the second time this month that a sizable group of extremists has staged public demonstrations in Boston. On July 2, about 100 members of Patriot Front marched through the city’s downtown, surprising area law enforcement who said they had no advance warning.
The office of Mayor Michelle Wu said on Saturday that the police department’s civil rights unit is investigating “the targeting of the LGBTQ community members” because the demonstration coincided with the drag queen story hour.
“It’s no coincidence that these cowardly groups from outside our city continue to target Boston as we showcase how representative leadership, empowered communities, and bold policies can have immediate impact,” Wu said in a statement.
“We are prepared and will not be intimidated in our work to make Boston a city for everyone. We remain ready for citywide deployment of extra public safety resources with a zero tolerance approach to any groups looking to intimidate or harass residents in our city,” she said.
The masked demonstrators wore clothing bearing the NSC-131 logo and chanted, “NSC-131,″ according to photographs from the scene and a witness. They displayed a banner that read, “PEDO SCUM OFF OUR STREETS.”
As they were leaving the area at about 11:45 a.m., they were followed by a group of counter-protesters, many of whom were riding bikes, Boyle said.
Hood and a counter-protester got into a confrontation and began fighting, Boyle said. The counter-protester was also arrested, he said, and charged with affray and disturbing the peace.
A second counter-protester was also arrested, Boyle said. Police allege the second counter-protester , who was on a bike, refused to get out of the way of NSC-131 members as they tried to drive away and punched a window of a car driven by a member, he said.
City Councilor Kendra Lara, whose district includes Jamaica Plain, said her office made sure the two counter-protesters were released Saturday on bail.
White supremacists, she said, have been targeting Jamaica Plain for years.
“Our people and our neighbors did not sign up for this,” Lara said. “They didn’t sign up to have white supremacists walking their streets.”
Diane W. Spears, president of the board of directors for the Loring Greenough House, said police alerted the venue in advance that the drag queen story hour could be targeted, prompting organizers to postpone the event until Saturday.
Officers were stationed around the property well before the story hour began at 10 a.m., she said. The event had concluded and nearly all of the attendees were gone when the demonstration began, according to Spears.
“These guys who came knew nothing about us. They didn’t care in my opinion,” she said. “They had these face masks on to hide their identities. People who are like that are hard to respect.”
Patrick Burr, a drag performer who appeared at the Loring Greenough House as Patty Bourrée, said he began hearing chanting outside the house while he was upstairs changing out of his costume. A representative from the venue drove him away from the property without attracting attention from the demonstrators, he said.
But when he got home, Burr said, he realized he left his ukulele at the mansion and returned to retrieve it. Counter-demonstrators had assembled by the time he got back, he said.
“I was so happy to see that,” Burr said. “I think these ‘keep the pedos off our street’ people think they are speaking for a silent majority, but they are not. You have to show up, and you have to speak up to show that they are not speaking for you.”
Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden released a statement denouncing the demonstrators and calling them white supremacists.
“It’s clear that Boston is a way point in the crusade of hate launched five years ago in Charlottesville,” he said. “The presence of white supremacists at a Jamaica Plain book reading today, like their downtown Boston march earlier this month, is at once a disgrace and a warning. Society everywhere is targeted by these groups, and society everywhere must reject them.”
In March, police arrested Hood in South Boston where masked demonstrators wearing NSC-131 attire displayed a banner that read, “Keep Boston Irish” during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
He was charged with public drinking, but the complaint was dismissed prior to his arraignment, court records show. In 2019, police arrested Hood and two others in East Boston after they were allegedly caught distributing Patriot Front propaganda.
Police recovered a spring-loaded knife from Hood and charged him with carrying a dangerous weapon, but the case was dismissed, according to court records.
NSC-131 has a presence throughout New England, with chapters in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, according to Southern Poverty Law Center
Last month, police in East Providence, R.I., stopped five men affiliated with NSC-131 on the grounds of the Gordon School. Two of the men refused to identify themselves and were arrested, police said. Earlier this month, the group distributed recruitment flyers in Kittery, Maine.
Last July, NSC-131 members attended a school board meeting in Nashua, N.H., to voice opposition to vaccines and mask mandates.
In Jamaica Plain Saturday, some of the counter-protesters said they learned about NSC-131 being in the neighborhood from social media.
Courtney Ignace, 26, of Jamaica Plain, said she felt “disgust and rage” when she saw videos of the protest on social media and decided to join the counter protest.
She stood in front of the mansion with a homemade sign that said “Queer is Good,” sporting a shirt that read “Stand Up! Gay-Bi-Queer and Proud.”
“I came out here with a sign because it’s wrong to not say anything about what happened,” said Ignace, who was accompanied by a few friends. “This community is very pro-queer and anti-Nazi, and we have to say that.”
Laura Crimaldi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi. John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Camille Caldera was a Globe intern in 2022.Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.