On Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, students and faculty found numerous posters containing anti-Semitic imagery and text around Vassar’s campus. The posters blamed Jews for sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and referenced a neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer (The Miscellany News, “College bans suspect in anti-Semitic poster campaign, 10.10.2018). The Dutchess County local responsible for the posters plastered similar fliers at Marist College, Dutchess Community College and two churches in Beacon (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Dutchess local who posted anti-Semitic flyers at colleges banned,” 10.09.2018).
Three months later, according to head of the Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance’s Immigration Justice Action Team Valerie Carlisle, residents in the town of Poughkeepsie identified anti-immigrant signs placed on stop signs and light poles. The police were called at the time, but members of the Latinx community who had found the fliers did not want the act publicized; they hoped it was just an isolated incident. “It wasn’t in the newspapers. We didn’t want to give this person any power. People are motivated when they can feel that anxiety,” Carlisle explained.
Carlisle heard about the incident while discussing local immigration issues with a friend over a cup of coffee at Crafted Kup. Some of her friends stopped by their table and upon hearing about the signs, mentioned, “Hate Has No Home Here.” She revealed in an email, “It was the first time I had heard of this national campaign and the idea of carpeting Dutchess County with this message struck a chord,” she revealed in an email.
She spoke later that day with friends who march for immigration justice, and they offered to donate money to buy signs in bulk. Together, Carlisle and her friends created a GoFundMe and hope to distribute 1,000 lawn signs bearing the campaign slogan free of charge, with bumper stickers and window signs to come. Inching closer to their goal, the campaign has raised $3,487 of $4,000. Carlisle hopes people will put the signs up without knowing about the incidents. “You see things like New Zealand, and then you realize that it’s everywhere,” she said.
When asked if she has seen intolerance in Dutchess County in the past, Carlisle said she has never seen signs posted, but she knows that such sentiments exist here. She explained: “In our area, there are white supremacists, there are white nationalists. I march for immigrants every week, and we’ve had people yell curse words at us out their car windows.”
Carlisle indicated that minorities are more likely to be targets of this behavior, expressing, “I’m sure people of color and immigrants experience it a lot, but I’m a white person who doesn’t. We wanted to raise our voices and not just have those voices screaming profanities.”
Members of the minority groups the campaign intends to protect have expressed concern that the campaign will incite more animosity in Dutchess County. For example, the founder of a white supremacist group named “Proud Boys,” Gavin McInnes, has attacked the “Hate Has No Home Here” campaign in his hometown of Larchmont, New York. On his podcast, McInnes declared, “If you have that sign on your lawn, you’re a [expletive] retard” (Patch, “Proud Boys’ McInnes Hates No-Hate Signs In Hometown,” 01.07.2019). Members of minority groups feel that the signs might incite such responses in their community.
For a long time, Carlisle thought things were getting better for immigrants and people of color in Dutchess, explaining, “You saw [immigrant] businesses and they were part of the community and celebrated in the community.” Carlisle also feels that the current incidents have been incited by the Trump administration and its rhetoric, sharing: “I think the Muslim and immigrant communities are feeling the heat. People are being deported right out of our area, for things they shouldn’t be deported for.”
Carlisle and the other organizers wanted the campaign to be a non-partisan effort, which is why the signs are printed with red on one side and blue on the other.
Several religious congregations, including the Dutchess County Interfaith Council, Vassar Temple, Temple Beth El, The Unitarian Fellowship, Christ Church and others have joined to publicize the campaign. There will also be a free promotional concert on Sunday, April 14, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Christ Episcopal Church. Attendees will be able to take home complimentary lawn signs, bumper stickers, window posters and buttons.
At the individual level, Carlisle and the campaign organizers hope people will do more to reach outside their comfort zones to overcome personal prejudices. She added, “If we don’t communicate, things will never change.”