Portsmouth teen charged under Civil Rights Act for vandalism spree

Apr. 27—The state Attorney General's Office has filed a civil rights complaint against a Portsmouth teenager for a February vandalism spree that targeted homes, businesses and houses of worship in that city with graffiti espousing "white supremacy and Nazism."

The civil action was filed Thursday in Rockingham County Superior Court against Loren Faulkner, 17, for 22 violations of the New Hampshire Civil Rights Act.

"Hateful acts that are motivated by intolerance for our fellow citizens have no place in New Hampshire and will not be tolerated," Attorney General John Formella said in a news release announcing the enforcement action.

According to the complaint, "Much of the property damage was graffiti that included swastikas, one of the more well-recognized symbols of antisemitism but also racism, homophobia, and transphobia, crosses, a symbol of Christianity, and/or targets signs and symbols supportive of the LGBTQ+ community and the Black community..."

Authorities say Faulkner's activities actually began on April 20, 2022, when he drove a red sedan bearing Rhode Island plates into the driveway of a private home in Portsmouth and tried to cut down a rainbow Pride flag.

The homeowner saw him and shouted at the teenager, "who then stopped, laughed and ran back to his car before driving off," the documents state. The homeowner later described him as a White teenager and said he was accompanied by a black teenager.

Officials say Faulkner then drove to Market Square, where he cut down a rainbow Pride flag hanging outside the North Church. Witnesses took pictures of the incident and later provided them to police.

That same day, Faulkner and a friend, identified in court documents as "M.E.," sent an email to the rest of their sophomore class at Portsmouth High School. It included a video of Faulkner burning a Ukrainian flag while railing against Ukraine, Ukrainians and gay people in a curse-ridden tirade, according to the court complaint.

Faulkner previously had stolen the flag from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, officials said.

The AG's office alleges that Faulkner targeted these places because of their support for LGBTQ people. He "was motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity," according to court documents.

According to the AG's office, Faulkner's activities accelerated on Feb. 21, when he launched a two-hour vandalism spree, spray-painting swastikas, crosses and Stars of David at 18 places across the city, including houses of worship, businesses, private homes and public sites. Surveillance cameras captured Faulkner moving between locations and vandalizing some of them, officials said.

Authorities said Faulkner spray-painted a Star of David, a red X, the word "Juden" and the phrase "White Lives Matter" on the Market Street pedestrian bridge in the city.

Other places targeted with graffiti were Temple Israel, St. John's Episcopal Church, St. John's Masonic Lodge, a rainbow-colored park bench outside Portsmouth Place Apartments and the Hanover Street parking garage.

Officials say Faulkner also spray-painted over several signs at homes and businesses, including a sticker in a yoga studio window that read "Hate is Unwelcome Here" and the sign in the window of a tattoo parlor that read "All are Loved."

These incidents unnerved business owners and residents in Portsmouth. The vandalism spree came after a neo-Nazi group targeted the Seacoast city last summer, hanging a large banner from a highway overpass that declared, "Keep New England white."

The AG's office also has filed civil rights action against that group, NSC-131, and two of its members.

Each violation of the Civil Rights Act allows for a maximum civil penalty of $5,000. The court also can issue an order restraining a defendant from committing future violations of the Civil Rights Act or any other "hate-motivated" conduct for three years, according to the AG's office.

For now, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Unit is seeking a preliminary restraining order against Faulkner "to protect the victims and the public from Mr. Faulkner."

The agency is asking the court to bar Faulkner from going within 350 feet of any of the locations previously targeted or contacting their owners, staff, congregants or residents. It also wants the court to enjoin him from threatening or engaging in physical force or violence, damage to property, trespassing or any other unlawful activities motivated by hate or bias.

In the news release, AG Formella vowed to pursue "robust" enforcement of the state's Civil Rights Act — "to combat hate and ensure that New Hampshire remains a place where people of all backgrounds feel welcome and have the opportunity to live their lives free from discrimination, fear and intimidation."