Elected officials in the Tonawandas are decrying recent recruitment attempts and literature distribution from various hate groups.
Officials from the cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda and the Town of Tonawada are calling for Western New York leaders to join them in condemning messages of hate against any religious or racial group, or against members of the LGBTQ community.
The sentiment comes a few weeks after homes in all three municipalities received recruitment materials from groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Radical Nationalist Party of America or the Aryan Renaissance Society. In a press release issued Tuesday morning, Tonawanda Council President Jenna Koch said that instances of violence involving white supremacist groups has been on the rise.
"Western New York is not immune to this trend," she said. "In the past two years, there have been at least five known door-to-door canvasses by white supremacist groups in an attempt to both recruit and terrorize. Acts of hate affect every single one of us and it needs to be addressed. This type of hatred is not welcome in our communities."
Koch said the flyers were distributed in plastic bags to a handful of homes in all three communities at random without any apparent pattern. She said one of the flyers she saw had a swastika displayed on it and others had phrases like "Make America Great."
"It's 2019," she said. "We shouldn't have a place for hate in this community."
Tuesday's press release noted that while white supremacy has been an issue, its not the only form of discrimination communities in New York are dealing with.
It referenced an analysis of hate crimes from the state Devision of Criminal Justice Services, which found that crimes against gay men were the most common type of hate crime between 2012 and 2016. This was followed up by anti-Semitic hate crimes, then anti-black and finally anti-Islamic crimes, in that order.
"As one of the few openly gay elected officials in New York state, I feel it is one of my responsibilities to stand up against any acts of inequality in our communities," said North Tonawanda Alderman Austin Tylec. "We need to recognize encroaching threats to our society and intervene as necessary to prevent the repetition of history. Western New York will not be a refuge for bigotry of any sort."
The press release said that these recruitment efforts often involve a social media component, where recruiters seek sympathetic responses to their flyers and then reach out to potential members and attempt to entice them to join.
Koch said that they intend to bring a resolution to the table officially condemning white nationalism and discrimination of all sorts and are asking that other local governments in Western New York do the same thing.
"The first step toward eradicating hatred in our communities is by acknowledging it," said Town of Tonawanda Board Member Bill Conrad. "With this, we are one step closer to a better, safer and more inclusive Western New York."