White supremacist and antisemitic propaganda repeatedly found in Westfield

The+most+recent+Patriot+Front+sticker+on+Central+Ave+in+Westfield

Photo by Noelle Shih

The most recent Patriot Front sticker on Central Ave in Westfield

Membership within the American nation is inherited through blood, not ink. Even those born in America may yet be foreign.”

This is just one of the many ideas stated on Patriot Front’s (PF) website, a group that appears to be targeting Westfield through sticker propaganda. 

PF is a white nationalist extremist group. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the PF “define themselves as American fascists or American nationalists who are focused on preserving America’s identity as a European-American identity.” 

Originally part of Neo-Nazi Vanguard America, the leader of PF, Thomas Rousseau, split off after disputes between leadership. However, the ideology of the PF is nearly identical, hoping to achieve, as noted in their manifesto, a “hard reset on the nation we see today- a return to the traditions and virtues of our forefathers” to “reconquer” America. 

PF is known nationally for its demonstrations. Their primary goal is to amass a large membership while avoiding violent confrontations and direct political involvement. 

Most of the group’s activities depend on members to spread their propaganda at the local level. By putting up stickers, the PF aims to manipulate the viewer with images of American nationalism, referencing patriotic symbols like the bald eagle or American flag. 

They use QR codes and links to draw people to their website which contains quotes by previous American presidents and American icons, such as George Washington and Henry Ford, to portray a sense of nationalism.

Two PF stickers were found about two weeks apart in May by WHS junior Michael Klikushin on Central Ave. This is a clear example of PF’s influence in Westfield. The incidents described to Hi’s Eye by Klikushin are not isolated reports. According to TAPinto Westfield, presence of the stickers was first reported on Jan. 11.

Westfield Police Chief Christopher Battiloro explained that it is hard to prosecute the sticker cases. He stated that without clear evidence, such as a witness or the PF member being caught, the perpetrator can continue to commit the same crime. Furthermore, there is a gray area between protected free speech from the first amendment and hate speech. 

Placing stickers on public property, depending on each investigation, can be classified as criminal mischief, violation of several municipal laws or harassment. If a sticker’s message could be considered directed at an individual or group, this could be a bias incident (carrying the heaviest penalty).

I didn’t expect this in Westfield. I read about it a lot online happening in other cities after the Capitol insurrection and during the election.”

— WHS junior Michael Klikushin

However, as Battiloro explained, since there is no clear victim as the stickers were put on public property in random locations, they are not classified as biased incidents.

Battiloro did acknowledge that “regardless of what race, gender, or sexual orientation we are one community here. We need to live together and accept one another. Those incidents go directly against the word community which ultimately involves unity.”

When he found the stickers, Klikushin said that it was a surprise. “I didn’t expect this in Westfield. I read about it a lot online happening in other cities after the Capitol insurrection and during the election.”

Additionally, there has recently been a rise in antisemitism locally, as Nazi symbols were found Nov. 11 in Tamaques Park. As stated in a previous Hi’s Eye article, there were nine bias incidents reported in 2019 in Westfield. Earlier, on Oct. 25, 2019, there were reports of swastikas drawn in a WHS bathroom and similar incidents occurred at Franklin Elementary almost exactly a year before that incident on Oct. 22, 2018.

In response to these bias incidents, WHS senior Jake Delforte said, “When I see a swastika in the bathroom, I feel like it’s directed at me. I see that symbol and that symbol just represents everything that’s wrong in the world to me. To me, it puts across the message that we don’t want you here.”

WHS Social Studies Teacher and Co-Advisor of The No Place for Hate Committee (NPFH) Kimberly Leegan stated that at a meeting, students reported “incidents [that] ranged from hearing or being called racial, anti-semitic, or homophobic slurs in the halls, [hearing] racial or anti-semitic or homophobic jokes, or experiencing microaggressions, to name a few.”

Assistant Principal and Co-Advisor of the NPFH Warren Hynes stated that we need to take a proactive approach to white supremacy and antisemitism. While the stickers are a large concern to many community members, he believes that Westfield could avoid these incidents with a change in policy. 

When we look at the pyramid of hate, we see that there are things that are much lower levels than a swastika drawn on a tree that could be of concern. We always want to address those initial levels on the pyramid of hate so we never get to the level of a swastika on a tree,” Hynes explained.