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Leader of hate group charged with a civil rights violation for hanging racist banner over highway in New Hampshire

New Hampshire authorities have filed a civil complaint against the leader of the neo-Nazi group NSC-131, a Pepperell, Mass., man who is also facing criminal charges in Boston for allegedly brawling with a counterprotester outside a drag queen story hour last summer, for allegedly hanging a racist banner on public property.

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office said prosecutors and police in Portsmouth, N.H., have launched civil “enforcement actions” against NSC-131 founder Christopher R. Hood Jr., the group itself, and a man named Leo Anthony Cullinan for allegedly hanging banners that read “Keep New England White” from a Route 1 overpass in Portsmouth last July.

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“Both Mr. Hood and Mr. Cullinan conspired to violate the Civil Rights Act by agreeing, in conjunction with other NSC-131 members, to travel to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and unlawfully trespass upon public property,” prosecutors said in a statement. “The complaints alleges that Mr. Hood, Mr. Cullinan, and NSC-131′s actions were motivated by race.”

The Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center have classified Hood’s group as a neo-Nazi organization. The group claimed on social media to have disrupted a drag queen story hour in Taunton on Saturday, though law enforcement has not independently confirmed their participation.

Peggy Shukur, interim regional director for the Anti-Defamation League in New England, said the organization has been closely monitoring NSC-131′s actions in the region.

“We’ve become increasingly concerned with the frequency of their activities, with the number of people who turn up to their activities,” she said in an interview. “It’s been a challenge, legally, to have anybody look creatively enough to take some action to hold these groups accountable.”

Shukur said NSC-131 has become increasingly public as it seeks to intimidate members of the Black, Jewish, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized communities and to recruit those who share its views.

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She commended New Hampshire authorities for taking legal action.

“The fact that it’s a government agency willing to take this up and say it’s not acceptable sends a strong message to people, particularly those targeted by NSC-131,” Shakur said. “That’s a really important and powerful message, and one we haven’t heard often enough.”

Hood made headlines last summer in Boston when he led a demonstration of roughly a dozen masked men outside the Loring Greenough House in Jamaica Plain, where families gathered for the story hour event, police said.

The demonstrators chanted “NSC-131″ and yelled antipedophile slogans until the event ended, according to police reports and a witness.

Most of the group dispersed but several members began “trading insults” with a group of counterprotesters who had gathered on the opposite side of the street, police said. As both groups moved down the road, screaming threats and profanities at each other, Hood and a 27-year old counterprotester began to fight, falling to the ground and drawing several members of each group into the fray until police broke up the skirmish.

Hood was arraigned in July in West Roxbury Municipal Court on a charge of affray in connection with the alleged scuffle. He pleaded not guilty and was released at the time on personal recognizance. That case remains pending, with the next hearing slated for Feb. 16, records show.

More recently, NSC-131 also took credit after masked men disrupted a drag story hour at the Taunton Public Library on Saturday.

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Taunton police could not confirm the men were part of the organization, but NSC-131 claimed responsibility for the incident in a series of posts on the social media platform Gab, which is popular among some on the far right.

“NSC 131 shut down a Drag Queen Story Hour in Taunton, Massachusetts,” one post read. “A contingent of activists entered the event and the Drag Queen was escorted away minutes later.”

Taunton police said five masked men entered the room where the story hour was being held, and an unspecified number of members of the group were escorted out of the room “when they became disruptive” verbally.

Taunton police had assigned officers to be at the library, and there were four inside the room where it was held, as well as “a large crowd of officers and people from the group outside in the hallway,” according to the spokesman.

Additional officers were dispatched to the library at 10:23 a.m., the spokesman said, though he would not say why.

Library officials did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Mayor Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton released a statement to The Boston Globe but did not specifically address the incident at the library.

“Many people work together to ensure that Taunton is a welcoming and inclusive city,” O’Connell said. “People have the right to disagree and to protest, but it must be done respectfully and lawfully. I am thankful to the Taunton Police Department for maintaining the peace and enforcing our laws to keep our residents and all events held in our City safe.”

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Correspondent Nick Stoico contributed to this report.



Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.