CHATHAM—On Monday morning, October 3 several people in the Chatham area woke up to find clear plastic bags holding a few handfuls of dry beans. Each bag also carried a leaflet. The bags were tossed on lawns and sidewalks. The leaflets advertise an anti-Semitic film that tells an alternative history of World War II and, on the other side, there is a recruitment solicitation on behalf of the WhiteLivesMatter organization.
Some of the people who found these packages brought them to the attention of Chatham resident Michael Richardson, who publishes a website called hatewatchreport.com. The site was set up in January 2020 after the attack on the U.S. Capitol to provide information about such white supremacist groups as Oathkeepers, Proud Boys and the Patriot Front. Among the information published on the website is an account of events initiated locally; sighting of clandestinely placed stickers and signage advertising these groups.
“I’ve been doing this for a while now and people know me,” Mr. Richardson said Tuesday, October 4. “We publish this newsletter with no opinion, just reporting on events.” For Mr. Richardson, the obvious question is “whether to ignore these things or expose them and give them attention, which is what they want. We decided it is not best to keep quiet.”
“They are out pushing a Nazi- or National Socialist agenda. They are promoting radical extreme hate speech,” he said. The basis of much of this, he said, is the Great Replacement theory, a discredited idea that white people are being intentionally replaced in U.S. society by Muslims and people of color. Anti-Semitism is a central component of the “theory.”
Village of Chatham Mayor John Howe said that local police are aware of who is involved and that the investigation is ongoing. He said that the New York State Police are also involved.
“It’s disappointing that this is happening in our community. We encourage anyone with information to come forward,” the mayor said. He noted that it was not just in the village but also in Old Chatham and Malden Bridge. The leaflet bags were tossed on lawns and sidewalks in what appeared to be a random fashion.
“We don’t have an exact count of the number, but it was less than 20,” the mayor said.
“Because of the recent history [of these activities] we have to take this very seriously,” said Mr. Richardson.