Suffolk DA candidates talk strategy amid growing wave of hate crimes and neo-Nazi activity

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The next Suffolk County district attorney will face a tough question: Is Boston equipped to deal with a growing wave of hate crimes and white supremacist activity?

“It’s not just about what happened, it’s about where we’re going,” outgoing Suffolk prosecutor Kevin Hayden told a League-hosted candidates’ forum on Thursday. town in eastern Massachusetts. “We have key elections coming up and controversial Supreme Court rulings [of the United States] which we know will lead to more problems…we need to be better prepared for the future.

Hayden’s main challenger, Boston City Councilman Ricardo Arroyo, called for an “urgent reassessment” of policing in response to white supremacist groups, especially those with strong local recruiting efforts.

“We have a gang database that tracks black and Latino youth, but we don’t have a database of individual members of these types of hate. [groups]“, Arroyo said. “From the perspective of how we monitor and how we operate, there is a disturbing tendency … to underestimate and underutilize our policing efforts when it comes to white supremacists and the threat they pose to our communities.”

Arroyo called for a public hearing to question why the Boston Regional Intelligence Center did not seem to know beforehand that the right-wing Patriot Front group had organized members from across the country to march through Boston on July 2. Hayden’s Office Did not respond to allegations of insufficient intelligence, but stressed that those involved in the march would be prosecuted “to the fullest extent permitted by Massachusetts law.”

After local white supremacist group Nationalist Social Club-131 protested a drag queen story hour event in Jamaica Plain last week, US attorney Rachael Rollins, the former Suffolk County prosecutor, announced its intention to create a dedicated hotline that will allow citizens to report white supremacist activities in their communities.

Since an attempted insurrection on the United States Capitol last January, hate groups have been increasingly publicizing their recruiting efforts in Massachusetts through protests, leaflets, vandalism and online organizing.

Massachusetts has the fourth-highest level of hate propaganda in the nation, with historic levels of anti-Semitic and white supremacist messaging, according to a Anti-Defamation League report.

Hayden’s office announced last week that two more civil rights attorneys will be added to the DA’s High-Risk Victims Unit “due to recent hate-motivated incidents,” in a bid to continue training hate crime management prosecutors “as these cases arise in the future,” Hayden said Thursday.

Both candidates have emphasized prosecuting those who perpetuate hate crimes “to the fullest extent of Massachusetts law,” a policy that is the subject of its own scrutiny: legislation to reform and clarify hate crime laws now sits before the Judiciary Committee.

Massachusetts voters will vote to decide five disputed statewide elections, including the Suffolk County district attorney, in the Sept. 6 primary.

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