WESTFIELD, NJ — A series of stickers posted on local streets in support of a white supremacist group were removed this week and later condemned by the authorities, who said they are investigating.
Officials with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office this week said investigators are aware of materials found affixed to public property in Westfield advertising a group identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white nationalist group.
“Hate has no home in Union County, and its purveyors can rest assured that we will remain vigilant in rooting it out wherever it exists,” said acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo in a statement. “Our County’s remarkable diversity is a strength, not a weakness.”
The prosecutor’s office said the group Patriot Front has “no known ties to the Union County community” and that representatives of Prosecutor’s Office Bias Unit have been communicating with members of the Westfield Police Department as their investigation continues.
Mayor Shelley Brindle on Friday noted that the hate group’s messages are being discovered after a failed Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and on the same week as President Joseph Biden’s inauguration. Brindle condemned the group’s messaging.
“They can try any way they want, but their ideology and their organization will not succeed — not only in Westfield but in our country,” Brindle said. “Their organization is disgusting.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Patriot Front as an “image-obsessed organization that rehabilitated the explicitly fascist agenda of Vanguard America with garish patriotism. Patriot Front focuses on theatrical rhetoric and activism.”
In Westfield, one of the group’s stickers had been reported affixed to the back of a street sign at First and Rahway Avenue on Saturday, Jan. 16, and on Tuesday, Jan. 19, a resident discovered additional stickers of approximately 3-inches by 3-inches adhered to “various signs in the Town of Westfield,” said police Sgt. Michael Walsh in an email.
The resident, who declined to be named, provided images to TAPinto Westfield showing seven stickers with varying designs in support of the group on signs and poles on both sides of the street on South Avenue between Hort Street and West Broad, including on the poles for street signs where South Avenue intersects with both Hort Street and Downer Street.
The stickers, which have since been removed, show the hate group's name, Patriot Front, and include the slogans “America First,” “America is Not for Sale” and “United We Stand.”
“My hope is that this was not done by a Westfield resident, but I’m not naive enough to think that it couldn’t be the case,” Brindle said. “I will say that there is no place for that here. We’ll make that loud and clear.”
The stickers are being reported in the same week that someone tore down a banner placed by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Westfield at the South Avenue Circle stating, “Say Their Names …” a reference to Black people killed in police violence. Patriot Front materials were previously seen in New Brunswick in 2017.
Dov Ben-Shimon, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, which represents and provides services and programs for the Jewish communities of Union, Essex, Sussex, Morris and parts of Somerset Counties, said that the Federation’s security had been in contact with law enforcement about the materials.
“Our security has been in contact with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office regarding the Patriot Front materials in Westfield,” Ben-Shimon said. “We are monitoring the activity with our local and state law enforcement partners. …. We’re grateful for our law enforcement partners, and thankful for their continued efforts to keep our communities safe.”
The Prosecutor’s Office statement said both it and Union County’s 21 municipal police departments “take such reports extremely seriously and maintain strict adherence to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General’s Bias Incident Investigation Standards, which were updated in April 2019.”
Anyone who believes that they may have witnessed or have information about a bias incident is urged to contact their municipal police department or the Attorney General’s Bias Hotline at 1-800-277-BIAS (2427).