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Leader of New England hate group facing civil charges for racist display in Portsmouth

Attorney General John Formella at a podium during a press conference
Todd Bookman/NHPR
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Attorney General John Formella announced a civil complaint had been filed against NSC-131 during a press conference in Portsmouth on Tuesday.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has filed a civil rights case against NSC-131, a hate group active in New England, as well as its leader and another member, for allegedly trespassing and then hanging a racist banner in Portsmouth last summer.

Prosecutors allege in court documents released Tuesday that the group violated the state’s civil rights statute when it tied a banner over a highway overpass containing the phrase "Keep New England White."

Authorities filed the civil charges against the group, as well as its purported leader, Christopher Hood of Newburyport, Mass., and Leo Anthony Cullinan, a Manchester resident. NSC-131 describes itself as a “pro-white, street oriented fraternity,” according to court documents. Along with public displays of racist banners and materials, it has also attempted to disrupt drag shows at venues across New England in recent years.

At a press conference in Portsmouth Tuesday, New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said his office is continuing to investigate other alleged incidents involving NSC-131 for possible charges.

“We will continue to watch carefully. We will continue to investigate these incidents when they happen,” he said. 

NSC-131, or the Nationalist Social Club, has been identified by the Anti-Defamation League as a New England-based neo-Nazi group founded in 2019 that “espouses racism, antisemitism and intolerance” and whose “membership is a collection of neo-Nazis and racist skinheads, many of whom have previous membership in other white supremacist groups.”

The group has been involved in other acts of racist intimidation in New Hampshire, including graffiti and threatening a Latino state lawmaker.

According to the Department of Justice, Portsmouth police received 911 calls about the banners last summer. When officers responded, they saw about 12 men on the overpass wearing hats, sunglasses and face coverings emblazoned with “NSC-131," or “131." The officers told them the banners couldn't be hung from the overpass without a permit.

Hood, the group’s leader, spoke with authorities for about 20 minutes before the group disbursed. Images of the banner later appeared on the group’s social media channels.

“Hate, intimidation, and divisiveness are simply not part of the fabric of this great city of Portsmouth,” said Portsmouth Police Chief Mark Newport. “They are just not our values.”

Editor's note: In a statement posted to social media on Wednesday, NSC-131 said that it believes its hanging of a banner on public property is protected by the First Amendment, and that it intends to defend its actions in court.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.