By Robert Kimmel–
Community reaction to racist, hate-group stickers widely posted in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown over the weekend was quick and thorough, and the postings were broadly condemned. Volunteers from both villages, having learned about the sticker postings, combed the villages, removing more than two dozen of the stickers from poles and signs.
Alerted to the displayed stickers Saturday, a rotating group of volunteers worked into the night locating them and eliminating them. Tarrytown resident and activist Rob Wingate dispatched an email to village officials and leaders describing the response and provided Sleepy Hollow Police Sgt. Nicholas Fiorisi, upon his request, a collection of photos showing volunteers removing the stickers from locations in the village. All told, about 15 persons searched for and eliminated the stickers over a 10-hour period.
Some of the stickers included the email address of the organization, “Patriotfront.us,” whose local adherents are suspected of having distributed them. Inscribed on several of them were images similar to Nazi swastikas. The Anti-Defamation League describes Patriot Front as “a white supremacist group” which “espouses racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance.” The organization is defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a white nationalist hate group that formed in the aftermath of the deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, of August 12, 2017.” The Patriot Front calls on its members to “…regularly engage in activism – such as posting flyers in their local communities or risk expulsion.”
“Judging by the placement of the stickers consistently on one side of most of the signs and posts that got stuck with them, we would guess the individuals started out on their hateful walk somewhere across from St. Teresa’s and stayed mostly on the north side of Beekman, moving toward Broadway,’’ Wingate explained.
He noted that they…. “Perhaps were crossing back and forth once or twice to the south side of Beekman, and then certainly ultimately crossed over to place the sticker at the police department. A sticker had also been placed on a pole near the Captors’ Monument at Patriot’s Park in Tarrytown. A batch of stickers were also found stretching down Cortland Street.” Wingate called a sticker with a swastika-like image next to the Morse School “beyond abhorrent.”
Concerned that the stickers might have been placed on the exteriors of house of worship, the volunteers checked most of them and found none near them. Wingate said he informed clergy of the sticker incidents. “Outreach further took place to the JCC, to alert it, because we are aware that this hate group has also been known to disseminate flyers near religious and educational institutions, and the JCC has been subject to hate in recent years,” Wingate stated.
He also wrote he hoped the Sleepy Hollow Police Department would review its external observation cameras “to see if the passage of the individuals responsible can be seen and identified.” Among the volunteers who searched for the postings were members of the Social Action for 10591, which is a group of those in and around Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown who want to foster an environment that says “you’re welcome, you’re safe, and you have a voice,” through conversation, shared resources, and action.
A local Facebook link set up by Wingate drew comments to the sticker placements. Tarrytown Trustee Paul Rinaldi called them “horrible.” Monique Elise McCoy wrote, “This is so awful. Thank you for your work and alerting us. Hatred among us will not win!” An entry from Marjorie Hsu stated, “Glad to live in a community where people have come together so quickly to remove these hateful stickers.” Matthew Evans wrote, “Thank you for this update and effort to remove these symbols of hate and division. This kind of vandalism is not welcome here and I hope the local chapter of this group is discovered and closely monitored. We need to have ZERO TOLERANCE for any sort of racism.”
Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray echoed those sentiments in a message to the community:
“Sleepy Hollow is a diverse, tolerant community and proudly so. I am extremely disturbed by the Patriot Front affront that has reared an ugly and unwelcome head in our village. This far right white supremacist hate group has no place here — or anywhere. It is gratifying that a number of individuals in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown sounded an alarm this past weekend,” Wray stated.
“Chief Bueti immediately instructed our detectives to investigate who slapped these stickers on public signs. The Chief and I are in constant communication as the investigation moves forward. So far we have learned that at least some of these stickers were posted in mid-November, and that they were noticed by residents. But until this past weekend, it seems no-one said anything. Please folks: the best way to counter hateful, bigoted rhetoric is to take it head on, not to ignore it,” he continued.
“I believe that this organization is very small, a splinter group off of a splinter group. Its modus operandi is exactly what we see here – slapping stickers on public property in an effort to increase visibility. But their mission is deeply un-American and vile. We need to make it clear that it is unwelcome here,” Wray concluded.