(NEXSTAR) – Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, reported cases of racist, anti-Semitic and other hateful messages in the United States have increased, with more than 4,850 reported in 2021 alone. down from the 5,125 incidents reported in 2020, this is nearly double the cases reported in 2019, according to a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League.
More than 350 of the 2021 incidents included overt anti-Semitic language or specifically targeted Jewish institutions, a 27% increase since 2020.
Communities from California and Oregon to Florida and North Carolina have seen an influx of anti-Semitic flyers in recent weeks in what appears to be a loosely coordinated campaign.
Residents on every coast have discovered posts with claims such as “every aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish.” Others declare that “every aspect of the Biden administration is Jewish.”
A man who discovered one of the flyers while jogging in a Columbus, Georgia, told Nexstar’s WRBL, “I’m still a bit shaken by this startling discovery. I thought our society had moved beyond those racist and anti-Semitic tropes. Apparently not.”
The flyers found in Columbus describe Jewish members of the Biden administration, with a note at the bottom reading “These flyers were randomly distributed with no malicious intent.” In Pasadena, Beverly Hills and Greensboro, North Carolina, flyers focused on the White House COVID-19 response team.
Anti-Semitic posters have been found in Colleyville, Texas, just over a month after a rabbi and four worshipers were taken hostage at a synagogue in the city.
Similar fliers have also been found in Denver, Vancouver, Ormond Beach, Florida and Park Ridge, Illinois since the start of the new year. In almost all cases, the leaflets were in plastic bags weighed down with stones.
In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism noted an increase in the spread of anti-Semitic propaganda, the center’s associate director, Carla Hill, told Nexstar. This trend continued in 2022.
“We noticed an increase in propaganda activity in December,” Hill says, while attributing the increase to “a loose network of anti-Semites and white supremacists bound together by their virulent anti-Semitism.”
According to Hill, the group is most active in Florida, California, Colorado and Texas.
While local officials and elected officials have spoken out against the leaflets in all cases, Hill says distributing propaganda is often considered a First Amendment right.
In California, for example, the Attorney General’s website states that “the United States Constitution permits hate speech as long as it does not interfere with the civil rights of others. While these acts are certainly hurtful, they do not rise to the level of criminal offenses and therefore cannot be prosecuted. »
Denver police told Nexstar’s KDVR that their bias-motivated crime unit is investigating the flyers. In Georgia, anyone convicted of a hate crime can face jail time and a fine.
If you find this type of propaganda, we encourage you to report it to law enforcement. The ADL also has an online form where you can register your experience.