Police in Winthrop have launched a hate crime investigation after a remote attendee at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting shouted an antisemitic slur, displayed a swastika on their Zoom screen, and appeared to give a Nazi salute, authorities said.
In a statement, town officials said Wednesday that the person in question used an ethnic slur described by the American Jewish Committee as a term used mainly by white supremacists to denigrate Jewish people.
“The Winthrop Police Department is actively investigating this incident as a hate crime,” Police Chief Terence M. Delehanty said. “We will respond aggressively to this attack on our community. There is no place for hate in Winthrop. Not in person; not online; not anywhere.”
Town Council President James Letterie said that “during a civic discussion on the flying of flags on town property, an individual seized the meeting to use it as a platform for hate speech and to display symbols of hate, intimidation, and Nazism.”
“We condemn this act and all acts of hatred in or around our community, and we will always call out and condemn hatred in all its forms,” he said. “There is no place for it here in Winthrop.”
In an interview with Channel 25, Letterie said the council may transition to written comments only from Zoom attendees.
Town Manager Anthony Marino noted that residents came together to support one another after a gunman fatally shot a retired Air Force veteran and a retired state trooper, both of whom were Black, in a racially motivated attack in Winthrop in June 2021.
“Winthrop has shown its true nature in the recent past when we banded together as a community of support and caring in the aftermath of a racially motivated double murder in 2021,” Marino said. “We came together then and we will always come together in unity to condemn hatred and intolerance and to fight fear and intimidation.”
Town officials did not identify the person who disrupted the meeting. Local police are reaching out to state and federal law enforcement personnel so that they can “bring their considerable resources to bear on the investigation,” they said.
There will be increased security at upcoming town events, like the menorah lighting on Tuesday, Delehanty said in the Channel 25 interview.
As of Wednesday evening, there were no active threats to the community that the police are aware of, Delehanty said. He said it was too soon to discuss possible charges.
Reports of antisemitism and anti-Muslim bigotry have spiked during the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.
Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.