Tuesday’s hearing from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol focused on far-right extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. White supremacist groups have a growing presence in New England, raising major concerns about their actions and, in some cases, the lack of law enforcement response to their public demonstrations. GBH senior investigative reporter Phillip Martin joined GBH Morning Edition host Paris Alston to connect the national actions to local movements. This transcript has been lightly edited.

Paris Alston: One witness who testified yesterday was Jason Van Tatenhove, a former national spokesman for the Oath Keepers. He said the country was "lucky" there wasn't more bloodshed on Jan. 6. A lot came out of those hearings yesterday. What stood out to you and possibly shocked you the most?

Phillip Martin: Part of the problem is nothing was shocking out of yesterday's meeting. What you heard was an individual talking about being radicalized online, and that radicalization is deep. Those who are being radicalized are standing on fertile ground. He talked about, for example, the role of the Oath Keepers. Well, you have no Oath Keepers in New England, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center's hate map, which they publish annually. You do have hate groups. And there are many individuals who are being radicalized online. Massachusetts, for example, according to SPLC's estimate, has 14 hate groups. Among them are the Proud Boys and NSC131. All of these groups — the Proud Boys, NSC131, the Patriot Front — all of them are white supremacist groups. All of them have their provenance, or received their greatest, I should say, attention, during the Unite the Right rally in 2017 in Charlottesville, in which a woman was murdered.

And they are all active here in Massachusetts, and they all take their cues from online signals. Some of those signals have been given in recent years, without question, by politicians, including Donald Trump. Now, all of these people aren't necessarily Republicans. A lot of them don't even like Republicans. But they are opportunistic, and they are taking their cues from politicians who are basically saying the same thing about so-called critical race theory, about the right of a woman to choose. The same [for] vilification of LGBTQ people. And so that's why the ground is fertile, because a lot of this stuff is being propagated online and a lot of young men — and women, in less numbers — are responding to these cues.

"They are opportunistic, and they are taking their cues from politicians."
-GBH senior investigative reporter Phillip Martin

Alston: It's been just a little over a week since we saw the white supremacist group Patriot Front marching through downtown Boston. They were masked. Some of them carried shields and flags. How does this group compare to the ones we learned a little more about yesterday?

Martin: This is a group that was formerly known as Vanguard America. These are neo-Nazis, fascists. It doesn't matter what they describe themselves as, or how they try to tone down their message. These are individuals who basically admire the brownshirts of pre-Nazi Germany and Nazi Germany, who basically served as paramilitary for the Nazi Party. And they see themselves in many ways as a paramilitary for whatever might happen next, including far right-wing politicians assuming power. They see themselves as a small army. And this is how the Anti-Defamation League, for example, describes them: as a small army of extremists. But this small army can cause a lot of pain, as you know, marching through downtown Boston, unopposed, it seems, by law enforcement. Law enforcement seem to have been taken by surprise by these people. And they are basically trying to make a presence, and make themselves known throughout New England.

The same thing is true with a group called NSC131, an explicitly neo-Nazi organization. And the same thing I should say about the Proud Boys, who showed up at meetings in Nashua, New Hampshire all last year at Board of Education meetings, trying to basically rally those parents who were there against the teaching of the centrality of racism in American history — what they falsely call critical race theory — and even against COVID mitigation efforts. So these people are throughout New England. They represent a threat to the broad public. And the Patriot Front marching through downtown Boston, again, was no surprise. But it's part of this large movement, or accelerating movement, I should say, of extremists. They're trying to make their presence known in New England and across the United States.

"The Anti-Defamation League, for example, describes them as a small army of extremists. But this small army can cause a lot of pain."
-GBH senior investigative reporter Phillip Martin

Alston: We know that one man is alleged to have been attacked during that march last week. And you mentioned the hesitation of law enforcement during that march, and the fact that they had sort of no knowledge, or no forewarning, that this would happen. Are they investigating these groups? And especially given the march last week, could that be ramped up? Could there be more expectation for law enforcement to act more swiftly when these things happen?

Martin: Well, these things will happen again. As I said, the Patriot Front, their whole modus operandi at this point is to parade, to hold banners over freeway overpasses — many people have seen this throughout the state — to pass out fliers in the middle of the night in places like Quincy and Salem. U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins' office, and others, like the Boston police, we understand now, are basically being more vigilant about the presence of these individuals and about the damage they cause to the psyche of the American public, and to efforts to basically intimidate folks by taking advantage of First Amendment guarantees. They do, in fact, have the right to march through downtown Boston. They don't have the right to hold up traffic, for example, which they did. And it's things like that which the Boston police seem to have paid no attention to: holding up traffic, attacking this man, artist Charles Murrell III. There seemed to have been no inclination on the part of the Boston police to stop these individuals. Part of that, again, is that the First Amendment seems to have played a role in how they responded. But also, some suspect that they just did not take these people seriously enough.