LEOMINSTER — Mayor Dean Mazzarella said residents should be on the watch for stickers promoting white supremacy, after a fresh crop of decals advertising a national neo-Nazi group appeared around the downtown area, as well as the Market Basket parking lot.
Mazzarella said that people who belong to white supremacist groups are only looking for attention and that the best way to combat what he described as such “hatefulness” is to make sure any similar stickers are taken down immediately. He encouraged members of the community to rip them down as they appear.
“Once they realize they can’t scare us, can’t rattle us, they go away,” Mazzarella said of people promoting white supremacist beliefs.
The stickers attracted attention just days after a “Lights for Liberty” candlelight vigil was held in Leominster center, in anticipation of nationwide Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids targeting undocumented immigrants and migrants. The raids were announced by President Donald Trump in recent weeks. They were slated to take place on Sunday, but have yet to come to fruition, according to national news reports.
Mazzarella first noticed the stickers around downtown Leominster on Monday, July 8, he said. Working with an array of city officials, including from the Department of Public Works, Mazzarella said he had the stickers quietly removed. However, a week later, social media posts in a popular Leominster Facebook group indicated that the stickers had been posted around the city once again.
On Monday, Mazzarella referred the incident to police, whom he said have begun an investigation and notified relevant local organizations that white supremacist groups might target. He declined to identify who those groups might be out of concern for their safety.
Interim Police Chief Michael Goldman, who received Mazzarella’s report, was not available for comment on Monday. Sgt. Thomas Wade deferred questions to Goldman.
Leominster resident Brett Johnson, who lives on Main Street, said he spent his Sunday evening ripping down the offending stickers. He first noticed one adhered to a parking meter outside of his Main Street apartment but said he did not realize that the stickers were affiliated with a white supremacist organization until he saw a discussion about them on Facebook.
“I made sure the ones that I couldn’t take down were unreadable,” Johnson said.
On Monday, several Market Basket light poles appeared to have remnants of large adhesives attached to their sides, about six feet off the ground. Only one adhesive with visible imagery remained, although Johnson said he had done his best to remove it on Sunday.
Mazzarella said that white supremacist propaganda has cropped up in Leominster several times during his more than two decades as mayor. The important thing to do in such situations, he said, is to treat such vandalism as graffiti, and take it down as soon as possible, so that it doesn’t receive attention.
“They want to get some exposure,” he said of the perpetrators.
Monica Busch: @SomethingMonica on Twitter