News & Opinion » News

Activists track local hate movement


Members of Metro Justice and Eastside Antifascists are tracking the actions of local individuals who participate in regional and national white nationalist and white supremacist rallies and are spreading racist ideologies on far-right message boards.

Metro Justice's organizing director, Colin O'Malley, says in the last year he has received word of individuals planning Rochester meetings through the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer. And he says the March Against Sharia Law, held in Syracuse in June, was a gathering of a similar assortment of the far-right groups that congregated in Charlottesville for the Unite the Right white supremacists rally.

"There's increasingly this actual organized basis for which people on the far, far right are coming together and sharing, really at its core, a violent ideology," O'Malley says. "At this point we need to be having real conversations about the fact that these folks are organizing in our communities, and how do we respond."

On message boards, residents of the Rochester area have posted hate messages referring not only to African Americans but also to Jews, gays, and lesbians and have discussed crashing local anti-racism rallies.

In June, Metro Justice's office was the target of intimidation when two men arrived at the door asking for O'Malley, who was in a meeting. They handed a flier with a picture of Pepe the frog — a cartoon drawing that has become an alt-right mascot — to Metro Justice fundraising and membership director Andrew Thomas.

Shortly thereafter, O'Malley discovered that the same flier was dropped at his home — indicating that the men knew where he lived.

There have been other documented instances of race-based intimidation in Rochester. During the Trump presidential campaign, white supremacist fliers were left at Brighton and Pittsford residences. And someone runs a hate-filled Facebook page, called Rochester NY Crime, which targets and insults black people and where people gather online to unleash epithets and violent discussions. The many petitions asking Facebook to take the page down have been unsuccessful.

News broke last week that Honeoye Falls man Jarrod Kuhn attended the Charlottesville rally. Kuhn was identified in photographs and videos taking part in the tiki torch demonstration and lunging at counter-protestors the next day. The Democrat & Chronicle reported that he was also at the Syracuse rally in June.

Members of Eastside Antifascists distributed hundreds of fliers in Honeoye Falls saying that Kuhn was involved in the rally. Kuhn has denied being a white supremacist and told the Democrat & Chronicle that he was there simply to protest the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee.

Perinton resident Robert Sayer Jr. was at the Charlottesville rally as well – and was identified in a photo taken at the Syracuse rally. On August 17, Sayer was arrested after he engaged in an unprovoked attack on an elderly man at a Fairport gas station. Sayer told officers that he attacked the elderly man because he thought he was a communist.

Eastside Antifascism volunteer Peter Berkman says some people have suggested that outing racists and white supremacists is a call for violence against them. "We've never called for violence," he said last week. "We don't believe that that's the appropriate response to this situation."

"I think the way that we address this is by simply informing the community of who these people are," to bring them "out of the shadows," he said.