UPDATE: 3/20/2019 The City of Beacon has since issued a response, telling people that if they see something like this, it needs to be reported to the police department for enforcement. Please see below for full quote.
Back in January of this year, when we were all adjusting to the new year and starting our new resolutions, racist and anti-Semitic flyers were posted to every telephone and light pole on Main Street in Beacon, from the east end (Bank Square Coffee) to the west end (Trax Coffee Roasters). But you never saw them.
Within a 12-hour period, two citizens of Beacon, who wish to remain anonymous, noticed the flyers and ripped every single one down with their bare hands. Bare hands is notable, because some flyers were affixed with strong adhesive, like a spray glue, and required prying all of the corners of the paper to remove it. Glue indicates that the hanger of the flyer wanted it to stay up for a long time. Other flyers were stapled to poles. The flyers were from PatriotFront, a well-known white supremacist hate group.
The day was cold but sunny. The two Beaconites were headed to meet each other for lunch, each from the other side of town. Each of these citizens happens to have studied graphic design and has a familiarity with art history. As they walked towards each other, some eye-catching flyers on the lamp posts and telephone poles caught their eyes. The visual graphic design was well done, they both noted internally, and kept walking.
The Meaning Behind The Markings
After passing more than a few flyers, including one on the Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church near Bank Square, the meaning behind the markings on the flyers struck them. The flyer series was promoting anti-immigrant sentiment, anti-Native American, anti-anything that was not white supremacist. Some might call it anti-people, some might call it fascist.
“The symbolism was disguised,” said one of the citizens who tore down the flyers. With a background in design, the Beaconite was aware of banned symbolism and disguised imagery used by white supremacist groups (read about disguised white supremacist imagery here in Foreign Policy). “Because the flyers covered more than one topic, they seemed to be recruitment flyers,” concluded the Beaconite. “The website of where they came from was prominently displayed across the bottom, so that someone could clearly see where to get more information.”
“Does White Supremacy Really Happen In Beacon?”
One evening during a regular City Council meeting, a gentleman approached the podium during the Public Comment period to complain about a large sign that hung on a building on Hanna Lane. The sign read: “Resist White Supremacy; Vote on November 6, 2018.” The gentleman was visiting Memorial Park with his friends, and was embarrassed to see the sign. “Is this really Beacon?” he asked.
That sign has become controversial and has prompted the City Council to deeply study its zoning laws on signs. The City Council has not yet come to a conclusion, as laws on signage are complicated in order to protect freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Being that the two Beaconites took down the racist and anti-Semitic signs that anyone visiting would have seen on the Main Street utility poles, chances are this person would not have seen these signs that encouraged white supremacy, and would have continued with his day, thinking that a white supremacist movement had not tried to move its way into this community.
Just Down The Road, Haldane Graduate and 2 Other Local Teenagers Arrested For Anti-Semitic Graffiti In Nelsonville’s October 2018 Swastika Incident
In October, a series of hate-fueled events happened: anti-Semitic flyers were hung on churches in Beacon, and at universities in the Hudson Valley including Marist College, Dutchess Community College, and Vassar. A suspect was found by police, who allegedly hung the flyers while wearing rubber gloves.
In October 2018, a swastika was sprayed onto the home that is owned by a Jewish man in Nelsonville. So far, three teenagers have been arrested for that crime. One teenager is a male who is 18, and is a graduate of Haldane High School in Cold Spring. He was arrested in February 2019, and just appeared in court last week. The other two were arrested in December 2018, one from Philipstown and the other from an unspecified location. They are 18 and 17 years old.
What To Do When Racist or Anti-Semitic Flyers Are Found
The first response of the citizens who tore down the flyers was to call the Beacon Police. The officer who took the call suggested that they call the Building Department to complain. “I let the officer know that I wasn’t really complaining, but rather informing that white supremacist material was all over the street,” said the citizen. According to the citizen, the officer’s response was: “There’s really nothing we can do.”
A Little Beacon Blog inquired with the City of Beacon’s City Administrator, Anthony Ruggiero, about if there is anything to do about flyers. “It is a violation of city code to put flyers of any kind on a telephone or light pole. It would be a violation the Building Department could issue if we knew who it was.”
So there you have it. Now you know. A Tom Petty song comes to mind: “Don’t come around here no more.” Parents: Keep talking to your kids. Teachers: Thank you for teaching our kids about hate crimes of the past, so that they can identify and defeat them in the present.