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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Hate group banners seen lashed to Norwich, East Lyme overpasses

    Banners featuring a white supremacist group’s mottos were displayed ― and quickly removed ― from highway overpasses in Norwich and East Lyme on Sunday, officials said.

    A large banner with the message “Life Liberty Victory” was spotted lashed to the Society Road bridge fence facing southbound Interstate 95 traffic near exit 73, a photo emailed to The Day shows.

    The sign included a link to the Patriot Front group, an organization the Anti-Defamation League said “justifies its ideology of hate and intolerance under the guise of preserving the ethnic and cultural origins of its members’ European ancestors.”

    East Lyme Police Chief Mike Finkelstein confirmed his department fielded a 6 p.m. Sunday call alerting officers to an overpass sign.

    “An officer arrived approximately five minutes later and found no sign was there,” he said.

    In a Sunday Facebook post, the East Lyme Democratic Town Committee referenced the sign and affirmed they “reject (Patriot Front’s) attempt to sow hatred in our community.”

    “Hate has no home in East Lyme,“ the post stated.

    A similar banner, exhorting drivers to “Reclaim America” was seen on Scotland Road bridge fencing over Interstate 395 in Norwich by state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, on Sunday. The banner, like the East Lyme version, included a Patriot Front tagline, photos show.

    Osten said she had just driven by the banner when a constituent texted her to complain about the signage. She said she immediately contacted state Department of Transportation officials who said they planned to remove the banner by Monday.

    “I was also told they were starting to see these signs around the state,” she said.

    DOT Director of Communications Kafi Rouse said crews from a nearby state garage took down the Norwich banner.

    “Senator Osten’s was not the first call from representatives we’ve gotten about these kinds of incidents recently,” she said, noting state Rep. Christine Cohen, D-Branford, alerted DOT officials to a similar banner in her district just a couple of months ago.

    “They’ve done us a great service in letting us know about the signs,” Rouse said. “The first thing for us, always is, there’s not place for hate here.”

    There was no immediate information on the individuals who affixed the highway banners.

    The weekend incidents came less than three months after a rash of similar issues were reported in Norwich, Ledyard and Preston.

    In July, Norwich residents reported finding flyers promoting the Patriot Front and the New England Nationalist Social Club ― a group deemed a neo-Nazi organization by the ADL ― in sections of the city. Patriot Front flyers were also reported attached to utility poles in Ledyard and Preston that month.

    The ADL found members of Patriot Front, described as “one of the United States’ most visible white supremacist groups,” have been responsible for the vast majority of white supremacist propaganda distributed in the United States since 2019.

    Osten said it was especially concerning to get notice of the overpass signs the same weekend Hamas militants attacked Israel.

    “Antisemitism has been growing,” Osten said, “I don’t know if the timing of the signs have anything to do with the attacks, but it’s a real dangerous situation.”

    j.penney@theday.com

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