Op-ed: Matter of Fact – Knowing where we stand

The very young new year has been equally distressing and inspiring. The city has seen more than a dozen anti-Semitic attacks the past few weeks, but both elected officials and average citizens alike have been resolute in calling out these hate crimes.

At a time when our communities are already contending with vile hatred, a white supremacist, neo-fascist group glued recruitment posters on private property in public areas around Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, and Park Slope, and dropped a large banner from a Belt Parkway overpass.

As disconcerting as it was to see this happen in our own backyard, it was truly disappointing to see a few neighbors dismissing these incursions.

Some asked what was so wrong with the generic, patriotic catchphrases this group uses on its signage. But, make no mistake — the Patriot Front organization from these posters advocates for a white ethnostate and fascist rule.

You don’t have to take my word for it because the group has been eager to spread its message through its manifesto. It believes that “The time of the Republic has passed in America” and that “Democracy has failed.”

The Patriot Front doesn’t expressly mention race much, but it is clear that it feels those “who are not of the founding stock of our people… the European diaspora” are not true Americans, and that “Even those born in America may yet be foreign.” It warns that white America must guard against “dilution by foreign races.”

Some online commenters have said it was all just a hoax, accusing liberals and leftists of being responsible for the posters and banner drop. Even after Patriot Front took credit and posted a video of its members putting up the posters and dropping the banner, the conspiracy theories persisted.

In a world of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” it appears that some will just not believe what appears right before their eyes if it doesn’t comport with what they wish to be true.

Social media saw some insinuating that those who were upset by these white supremacist posters were ignoring the spate of anti-Semitic attacks. The fact is, everyone has been aghast at the rash of hate crimes directed at members of the Jewish faith and that safety matters absolutely take priority, but we are all capable of being outraged by more than one thing at a time. Facebook and Twitter are proof that many people show an extraordinary capacity for just that.

Condemnations came from all of Southern Brooklyn’s elected representatives and Rep. Max Rose, State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, and Councilmember Justin Brannan should all be commended for speaking out against hate in our diverse community.

Regretfully, the comments section of each of their tweets on this contained constituents who were excusing or defending this hate group, in addition to some responses that accused representatives of orchestrating it all themselves.

Many of our grandparents and great-grandparents literally fought against racist, anti-Semitic fascists who were opposed to democracy in World War II. It shouldn’t be so hard to stop thinking about politics — left vs. right, blue vs. red — and come together around a simple case of right vs. wrong.

As distressing as it was to see all of this, I and other community members were not deterred. We were outraged by what had occurred and a rally was quickly organized as a public show of unity, demonstrating that we would not abide hate in our neighborhood.

At least 250 fellow neighbors gathered and stood shoulder to shoulder, extending along Third Avenue, from 85th Street to 87th Street; peacefully, defiantly, in solidarity.

The impetus for this was the actions of five white supremacist vandals who hid behind face coverings and dark sunglasses, as they can be seen in an online video dropping their banner over the Belt Parkway before running away.

Of the hundreds of us who stood up against their hatred on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, not one face was hidden and you will not find us running away.

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