Less than two weeks after antisemitic vandals attacked Israeli-owned Elbit Systems’ Merrimack facility, New Hampshire’s top cop announced he was expanding the size of his office’s Civil Rights Unit. And that unit may go after the far-left organization that took responsibility for the attack.
“New Hampshire is welcoming to everyone, and we will keep our state that way,” Attorney General John Formella said during a press conference held at Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua. To achieve that goal, he announced the Civil Rights Unit, which currently has one attorney and relies on help from other units, will add three new positions: an additional attorney, a sworn law enforcement investigator, and a legal support staff person.
Formella said that the funding will come from reallocating resources, not from any increase in the state Department of Justice’s overall budget.
According to the attorney general, the Civil Rights Unit has seen a 465 percent increase in complaints and referrals over the last five years, from 40 to 186. He attributed the rise to various factors, including the increased racial and ethnic diversity, an increase in divisive political rhetoric, and “a rise in tension and conflict around the world.”
Formella connected that rise in global tensions to events on the ground in the Granite State.
“Because we are here at Temple Beth Abraham, I want to note the rise in antisemitism we’ve seen across the state. The attack on Elbit Systems in Merrimack, we saw the graffiti in Laconia and other incidents around the state,” Formella said. “We are here to condemn acts of hate against any community at all, but we are here particularly to stand with our friends in the Jewish community to show that we are paying attention and we are going to take action against what we see as a rise in acts of hate.”
Asked how the New Hampshire DOJ defines a “hate crime,” Formella said three broad categories exist.
“A hate crime is a criminal act that’s motivated by animus towards a protected class — someone of a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin. A Civil Rights Act violation is either a threat of harm to someone or a threat of property damage or trespass based on animus towards a protected class. And a bias incident is maybe someone using a slur or something like that.”
Asked which category the attack on Elbit System fell under, Formella said that the incident is still under investigation and he can’t pre-judge. But based on what is known, “I think that is something that probably falls under all three.”
On Monday, November 20, about 20 anti-Israel activists hit the Elbit facility early in the morning, blocking the driveway, locking doors, breaking windows, and eventually climbing on the roof with burning flares. Three of the vandals, all from out of state, were arrested by Merrimack police on charges of riot, sabotage, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct.
The attack on the Merrimack facility is part of a long-standing campaign by Palestine Action US, which says its mission is “dismantling Elbit Systems and the Zionist War Machine.” One of the alleged attackers, Calla Walsh of Cambridge, Mass., also participated in the antisemitic “Boston Mapping Project,” which created an interactive map identifying places where Jews tended to congregate as well as the locations of Jewish community organizations in Massachusetts. The map included locations of Jewish daycares and schools.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Mapping Project identifies Jewish communal groups as “‘Boston’s Zionist NGO circuit” and accused it not only of “supporting the colonization of Palestine” but also of “violence worldwide.”
Palestinian Action US called Walsh and the other two suspects “comrades” and “heroes,” and its social media account presented real-time updates of the attack, suggesting direct involvement in the planning. Asked if New Hampshire law gave his office the authority to prosecute the organization for any role it may have had, Formella told NHJournal, “The answer is yes.”
“Organizations and entities can be held responsible for the acts of their members. We saw that with NSC-131. We brought an action, not just against two members of NSC-131, but against the organization itself,” Formella said.
NSC-131 is a white supremacy group that hung a “Keep New England White” banner on a Portsmouth bridge last
summer. The attorney general’s prosecution has been sidelined by a court ruling that Formella’s office was overreaching in its use of civil rights laws. Formella says he is appealing the ruling.
“My hope is that with these additional resources, we send a strong message that hate has no place in New Hampshire and that we will do everything in our power to investigate, punish, and deter hate crimes and civil rights violations.”
Sean Locke, who oversees the Civil Rights Unit, said “a large portion” of the complaints he handles come from the public as opposed to law enforcement. “They reach out, they relay concerns of discrimination they may have experienced, of hate-motivated acts they may have experienced,” Locke said.
“My hope is that with these additional resources, we send a strong message that hate has no place in New Hampshire and that we will do everything in our power to investigate, punish, and deter hate crimes and civil rights violations,” Formella said.