SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Residents of the two towns were outraged last week to find flyers in both towns promoting a white supremacist group. Officials in both towns were quick to condemn the flyers and urged residents to remain strong in the face of hatred.
The flyers were put up on bulletin boards, train stations and other high-traffic locales in the two towns by the New Jersey European Heritage Association, which took credit online for them. According to the Anti-Defamation League, “NJEHA is a small, New Jersey-based white supremacist group. NJEHA espouses racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance under the guise of ‘saving’ white European peoples from purported imminent extinction. NJEHA spreads their hateful propaganda online and by distributing flyers in central New Jersey. NJEHA has organized and participated in white supremacist rallies and demonstrations.”
Prior to this, NJEHA has primarily been active in central New Jersey, distributing recruitment flyers in and around Princeton.
Officials in the two towns responded quickly to the appearance of the flyers, removing them and denouncing the people responsible.
“We are saddened but unsurprised that they would promote such hate in a community committed to embracing diversity,” village President Sheena Collum wrote in a Dec. 16 letter to the community. “Such ugliness is intended to create fear and division among us and our community will not allow this to happen. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we unequivocally condemn these messages of hate. We are, and will remain, more committed than ever to ensuring that South Orange continues to be an inclusive and welcoming community where everyone feels safe, valued and celebrated for who they are.”
When asked Dec. 19 how many NJEHA flyers were found in South Orange, Collum told the News-Record, “This is tough to answer as residents began assisting in the removal as soon as they were spotted. The posters and stickers were found primarily in and around our South Orange Train Station.”
If more flyers are found, Collum’s advice to residents is: “Take them down and put them in the trash where they belong.”
Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca addressed the issue in the beginning of the Dec. 17 Township Committee meeting.
“Yesterday we woke up to find posters around town that were put up by a white supremacist organization,” DeLuca said at the meeting. “These were put on bulletin boards, they were put in parks and they were put up at the train station. Clearly they were put there to intimidate, to silence people in this community and that is not acceptable for us. We are an open and inclusive community and while everyone has a right to their opinions, no one has the right to come into our community and use intimidation.
“So we are going to be working with our clergy, the Attorney General’s Office, our Police Department to make sure that if these things do appear again, we’ll track them down, we’ll find out who’s responsible and we’ll make sure in their communities that people know these individuals are about hate and divisiveness as opposed to inclusion and diversity,” he continued. “So, we’re working with South Orange, I was working with some of the rabbis yesterday, in trying to address this. We’ll keep an eye on this to make sure it doesn’t continue to happen in the future.”
SOMA Action also released a statement condemning NJEHA.
“SOMA Action condemns in the most emphatic terms the efforts of the white supremacist hate group, the New Jersey European Heritage Association, to recruit in our towns. Early yesterday morning, several of the organization’s flyers were posted in prominent locations in Maplewood and South Orange soliciting people to join their ‘cause,’” the SOMA Action statement read. “We cannot equivocate. The ADL has deemed the NJEHA a virulently anti-Semitic and racist hate group. Their abhorrent message has no place in our democracy. A community like ours that welcomes diversity and openly engages in the struggle towards a more perfect union must forcefully reject white supremacy in whatever form it takes.
“SOMA Action stands with our community members who are targeted by anti-Semitic and racist hatred, and is committed to fighting white supremacy and white supremacists,” the statement continued. “SOMA Action will convene with our sister organizations in South Orange and Maplewood, including the Community Coalition on Race and SOMA Justice, as well as local clergy, to mount a forceful and united response to this aggressive act of hatred.”
The towns are also looking into ways to prevent such encroachments in the future.
“Basically, the white supremacists who put up the posters on bulletin boards in our parks and at the train station were seeking to sow hatred and division,” DeLuca told the News-Record in a Dec. 19 email. “They sought to challenge and threaten our community values of being welcoming and inclusive. We don’t discount their rights of speech and assembly but we do object to their efforts to intimidate our residents. If these posters appear again we will identify who these folks are and make sure their communities know of the hatred and divisiveness they espouse.”
According to Collum, NJEHA will be served a notice that they violated Village Code and are subject to hefty fines.
“I thank you for the calls and emails of concern and support. I am similarly grateful for the messages expressing your trust that we would take steps to address this. We have done so, and, in consultation with our legal counsel and code enforcement official, this group is being served a notice that their actions — for which they have publicly taken credit — constitute a violation of our Village Code as it pertains to the illegal postings of signs on public property. As is appropriate under the law, they will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for each infraction,” Collum wrote in the Dec. 16 letter. “The village will continue to monitor and remove any unauthorized materials that violate our Village Code. We appreciate our community’s ongoing assistance in cleaning up the trash.”
Collum told the News-Record that, while such cases would ordinarily be more difficult to pursue, NJEHA made the village’s work easier by claiming credit.
“In this instance, the white supremacist group decided to brag on social media and post pictures of their ‘work’ in our community,” Collum told the News-Record in a Dec. 19 email. “This is in direct violation of our ordinance and codes related to signs posted on public property. They did not seek nor did they receive approval to post and stick literature on any public property, regardless of content.”