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Social Justice

White Supremacists, Antifascists Trade Reprisals in Newburgh

Recent incidents of politically motivated vandalism suggest an ongoing struggle.

the wherehouse newburgh
The Wherehouse, a popular bar in Newburgh, was spraypainted with far-right symbols and messages in August.
Daniel Brown
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Just before 2am on August 24, two people spraypainted the Wherehouse, a popular bar, restaurant, and events space in Newburgh. Security footage captured the culprits first covering a sticker reading “Immigrants Welcome” on the Wherehouse’s electric meter, then spraypainting the bar’s windows with circled crosses—a symbol used by white supremacists—and the words “Fuck Antifa.” 

The incident follows another instance of politically motivated vandalism in Newburgh at Newburgh Tattoo (formerly known as Casa di Dolore), a tattoo parlor associated with various far right groups, which was spraypainted with antifascist graffiti and had its windows broken in February. Together, the two incidents suggest an ongoing struggle between local fascists and antifascists.

While the City of Newburgh Police Department has yet to announce any suspects in connection to the vandalism of the Wherehouse, local antifascist activists have their suspicions. The Hudson Valley Antifascist Network (HVAN), a collective of students, workers, and community members, has been monitoring white supremacist and other far-right activity in the region since 2013, often reporting its findings via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

“Those circled crosses are consistent with the ones used by white nationalists, often in addition to the phrase ‘White Pride Worldwide,’” says Dario, an activist with HVAN who asked that their real name not be used due to safety concerns. “This is not the first time we’ve seen racist graffiti in the city.”

Dario and HVAN report that there has been a recent uptick in racist flyering campaigns in the Hudson Valley, most notably by Patriot Front, a white supremacist hate group that “focuses on theatrical rhetoric and activism that can be easily distributed as propaganda for its chapters across the country,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In recent years, Patriot Front has been one of the main fascist groups recruiting in the Hudson Valley, primarily through flyering and stickering, according to HVAN. While the group’s propaganda is couched in the language (e.g. “liberty”) and colors (red, white, and blue) of Americana, it also often features a fasces, or a bundle of sticks topped with an axe, from which the fascist movement derives its name. The group is also connected to the murder of Heather Heyer, who was killed by a fascist charging his car into demonstrators against the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

“The White Pride crosses directly suggest Patriot Front,” says Dario, “while the phrase ‘Fuck Antifa’ is an actual marching chant of the Proud Boys.”

The Proud Boys are another fascist organization operating in the Hudson Valley. Hate Watch Report, a website monitoring hate groups in the area, describes the Proud Boys as a “far-right, neo-fascist, white-nationalist and male-only organization that promotes political violence.” The group have been implicated in violence across the United States, including the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, and HVAN identifies them as having an established presence at the Newburgh Tattoo in Newburgh.

Newburgh Tattoo is owned by Roberto Minuta, a member of the far-right antigovernment group the Oath Keepers, who has been indicted on federal charges for obstructing government proceedings, unlawful entry, evidence tampering, and conspiracy in relation to the Capitol riot, according to court documents collected by the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. The tattoo parlor was vandalized in February, when its windows were smashed and “PB Scum Fuck Off”—a reference to the Proud Boys—was spraypainted on the side of the building. (In an apparent attempt to place blame and elicit sympathy from passersby, someone subsequently spraypainted “Antifa Did This” as well.) The vandalism of Newburgh Tattoo may have been the impetus for the vandalism of the Wherehouse.

Dario says it “seems extremely likely” that the two incidents are connected. “The tattoo shop was an admitted and outspoken hangout and base of operations for the fascist Proud Boys,” they explain.

“They are definitely politically inclined,” says Michele Basch, co-owner of the Wherehouse, about Newburgh Tattoo. “The owner of that tattoo parlor has been in the newspaper for two days, currently, because he in fact did so many things during the January 6 uprising. So they are definitely political, they are definitely far right.”

Unlike Newburgh Tattoo, however, the Wherehouse and its owners are not openly partisan. Rather, as the defacement of the “Immigrants Welcome” sticker suggests, the bar may have been targeted by white supremacists due to its generally inclusive atmosphere. Besides being in a historically Black neighborhood, the Wherehouse also describes itself as queer-friendly and has hosted pride events, including a benefit for the Newburgh LGTBQ+ Center.

“Whoever targeted the Wherehouse may have done so on the perceived basis that they’re a socially liberal, inclusive establishment,” explains Dario.

“We welcome anybody, of any color, of any religion,” echoes Basch.

Regardless of the rationale, if the aim of the vandalism was to intimidate the Wherehouse’s staff, patrons, and neighbors, it appears to have failed spectacularly. The following day, neighbors helped remove the spray paint, and later in the week, patrons organized an event to show their support, packing the bar and its outdoor seating area, spilling over to the park across the street.

“What they did, trying to create fear and division, actually created unity and support,” says Basch. “It’s completely against what they tried to do.”

*This story has been updated to reflect that the tattoo parlor Casa di Dolore has rebranded as Newburgh Tattoo.