Activists hold anti-hate forum after white nationalists vandalize church

white nationalist
Members of a white nationalist group posted promotional stickers on the gate of a church ahead of an anti-hate forum.
Mallory McMahon

Community advocates held an anti-hate forum at a southern Brooklyn church on Thursday evening, hours after a pastor discovered stickers baring the name of white-nationalist group stuck to the house of worship. 

The pastor of Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church between Senator and 68th streets said he discovered more than 20 stickers advertising the white-power group plastered across the church’s gate, a nearby bench, and around the street on the morning of Feb. 6. 

“Though there was an attempt made to intimidate us, we know we’re not alone in our beliefs,” said Pastor David Aja-Sigmon, who said he believed the groups members targeted the church after hearing about the forum. “One of our guiding principles as a church is the scriptural charge ‘to be a house of prayer for all nations’ (Isaiah 56.7), so of course we would feel called to host a community forum on countering hate.”

The Texas-based nationalist group first reared its ugly head in Brooklyn in early January, when members posted recruitment flyers across Bay Ridge and hung a banner that read, “Protect American labor” on the Belt Parkway’s 80th Street pedestrian overpass. Residents responded by holding a 300-person rally on Jan. 6, where they denounced the group and expressed support for the borough’s immigrant communities. 

After the rally, the white nationalist group laid low until Feb. 7, the day of the community forum.

“I do know that these groups operate in waves,” said Mallory McMahon, the co-founder of Fight Back Bay Ridge, a progressive group that organized the rally and the anti-hate forum. “They really care about preserving their anonymity.” 

McMahon added that stickers were most likely posted by local members of the nationalist group rather than recruiters, since the perpetrators knew about the church’s event.

“The fact that they knew to target the church before the event indicates that they might be local,” she said. “It seems like they got wind of our event and wanted to intimidate people.” 

white nationalist
Locals gathered at the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church on Thursday night, where activists discussed how to respond to white nationalists’ recruiting efforts.Mallory McMahon

Despite the threatening posters, more than 100 people attended the anti-hate forum on Thursday night, where the executive director of an anti-fascist group called One People’s Project spoke about ways of combatting racist hatred. 

“You cannot ignore this or expect somebody else to fight this for you,” said Daryle Lamont Jenkins. “It’s not always going to be a physical manifestation [of violence], but we still have to get involved. We see it on Facebook and Twitter. We have to call it out.”

Jenkins and other local leaders advised attendees to monitor their children’s online presence and to publicly denounce signs for the hate group whenever they appear.

“If you see something, you have to say something,” McMahon said. 

The police department is aware of the group’s recruitment signage and is investigating the matter, according to spokeswoman Det. Sophia Mason.