A group that hung "Keep New England White" banners on the Route 1 overpass in Portsmouth will face Civil Rights Act violations from state Attorney General John Formella.

Ten members of the group National Social Club-131 were trespassing when they hung the banners from the Stark Street overpass on July 30 without a permit in an action motivated by race, according to the complaints against Christopher Hood and Leo Anthony Cullinan.

"The only reasonable interpretation is that the slogan and group’s intention was to discourage people of color from residing in or visiting and making them feel unwelcome and unsafe in the New England region, New Hampshire, and Portsmouth. Thus, the defendant, through this trespass, intended to interfere with the lawful activities of those traveling along Route 1 by discouraging them from exercising their right to travel freely through the Granite State," reads the complaint.

Sign hung on Route 1 overpass in Portsmouth 7/30/22
Sign hung on Route 1 overpass in Portsmouth 7/30/22 (NH Department of Justice)

The group took the banners down when approached by Portsmouth Police officers.

Hood, the leader of the group on the overpass, was charged with two civil rights violations with a potential penalty of $10,000. Cullinan could be penalized for $5,000.

At a press conference Tuesday with Portsmouth Police Chief Mark Newport and Mayor Deaglan McEachern, Formella said his office is looking into other instances of hate around the Seacoast region but did not disclose details.

"Hate, intimidation and decisiveness are simply not part of the fabric of this great city of Portsmouth. They are just not our values," Newport said. "These civil rights actions being taken today are about sending a clear message: this hate is not welcome here or anywhere in the state of New Hampshire."

Newport said drivers who saw the banner notified police that they saw something that wasn't right. He is proud of them for notifying police in a timely fashion so action could be taken quickly.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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