Westport police investigating neo-Nazi flyers found in town

WESTPORT — Once again flyers containing neo-Nazi and white supremacist content have been left in town driveways.

The flyer entitled “You Must Act Now” goes on to say that “our nation is being destroyed.” Several websites at the bottom of the flyer point to white supremacy websites.

“They were placed in the North Avenue area during the overnight, Saturday into Sunday,” said Lt. David Farrell when contacted by the Westport News. “We are aware of approximately 12 flyers, but there may be more if the homeowners brought them in. We do not believe anyone who received them is specifically being targeted.”

The flyer is known to be neo-Nazi in nature due to the photo of the statue it displays, a Nazi-commissioned sculpture from 1937 titled “Readiness” in German, according to Steve Ginsburg, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Connecticut office.

The Westport Police Department is working with area police departments and contacted the ADL in an attempt to identify the source of the flyers. Ginsburg said all regional ADL offices work with the ADL’s national Center on Extremism to track extremists and incidents across the United States, sending along evidence from police and community members to help investigate incidents as well.

The Connecticut office reached out to the Center on Extremism regarding the flyers and were told they are a “standard alt-right flyer that’s making its rounds around the U.S.,” Ginsburg said. The flyer is easy to download from alt-right websites, allowing it to be printed out and distributed by anyone accessing the sites, he added, so the flyer itself is difficult to track.

“In this particular case, we don’t have any special intelligence right now,” Ginsburg said.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas said town police are working “diligently to find the source” of the flyers’ distribution.

In February racist flyers were found on the Weston-Westport border and similar flyers were also found in town two years ago, bearing the message “#White Lives Matter.”

“I am concerned and angry that once again statements like this have found their way to Westport homes,” said First Selectman Jim Marpe, in the joint statement with police. “As I said two years ago, this kind of ethnic ugliness has no place anywhere, and certainly not in Westport.”

Marpe asked TEAM (Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism) Westport, a committee formed to celebrate Westport’s cultural and ethnic mix, the Interfaith Clergy and other appropriate town groups to lead the town’s response to the incident moving forward. A similar coalition responded to the distribution of the “#White Lives Matter” flyers in 2015.

“This is not reflective of Westport and what the town stands for,” TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey, Jr. said. He believes the act is not representative of the beliefs of the town as a whole or of individual residents. “We’re going to move forward to try to live up to what Westport really is as we move forward,” he added.

The recent flyer distribution is part of a growing trend in Connecticut and across the country of more visible discriminatory incidents. The ADL tracks anti-Semitic incidents and found a significant spike in Connecticut in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the past two years. In Connecticut, recorded incidents of anti-Semitism rose by 68 percent from 2015 to 2016, the ADL reported. The flyers dropped in Westport May 8 would be considered an anti-Semitic incident; its white supremacist and neo-Nazi content targets Jewish people as well as people who are not white.

“We’re definitely at a time where people who have these beliefs are being more public and active with them. It is definitely a national trend and it has been also the case in Connecticut,” Ginsburg said.

He also commended Westport’s reaction so far, including the residents who reported the flyers when they saw them and the Westport Police and first selectman, who jointly issued a statement condemning the distribution.

“There are good leaders in the town of Westport that are taking this seriously,” Ginsburg said.

He urged Westporters to move forward by showing it is not a town that will tolerate the distribution of white supremacist and neo-Nazi messaging.

“The more we can drown out these bad examples with good examples of people being kind to each other, that’s about the best we can do,” Ginsburg said. While free speech should not be censored, he added, “We do need to have the good speech be louder than the bad speech.”

Police ask that anyone with information or questions contact the Westport Detective Bureau at 203-341-6080.

lweiss@hearstmediact.com; @LauraEWeiss16