Officials in Annapolis reported the recent appearance of antisemitic flyers in their community.
The Annapolis Police Department began receiving calls about the flyers on Jan. 24, said Stanley Brandford, the department’s deputy chief. The flyers were reported to be on Tyler Avenue and Janice Drive.
The flyers claimed that Jewish people are behind the coronavirus pandemic and included a link to a website claiming Jewish involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, The Capital Gazette reported. Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said the flyers dealt with QAnon conspiracy theories and that they were rooted in antisemitism.
The flyers were found within plastic bags that also contained kernels of corn, Brandford said. He believes this was done to weigh the flyers down and prevent them from blowing away.
No one has yet reported seeing someone distributing the flyers, Brandford said. He believes the flyers were distributed out of a vehicle, rather than by a pedestrian. The department is checking video footage to confirm that theory, in addition to interviewing those who received the flyers, knocking on doors and asking community members who saw anything suspicious to come forward. Brandford added that, as of Jan. 27, Chief of Police Edward Jackson was planning to meet with a local rabbi to discuss the concerns of the Jewish community.
Federal partners, including the FBI, were also coming in to assist, Buckley added.
Meredith R. Weisel, the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington, D.C. deputy regional director, noted that the appearance of flyers making these claims has become widespread.
Weisel said that a group called the Goyim Defense League has been distributing flyers, stickers and banners around the country. In addition to Annapolis and Silver Spring, these items have been found in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin. According to Weisel, the Goyim Defense League is a “loose network of individuals” who espouse “vitriolic antisemitism and white supremacist themes via the internet, through propaganda distributions and in street actions.”
“The distribution of antisemitic fliers and banners were part of a December 18 propaganda ‘challenge’ issued by GDL leader Jon Minadeo,” Weisel said in an email. “In most cases, the propaganda contained antisemitic claims, including ‘every single aspect of the Covid agenda is Jewish’ or ‘Antifa is a Jewish Militia.’”
Brandford stated that the flyers found in Annapolis are similar to those the ADL attributes to the Goyim Defense League, but he emphasized that he was not saying that the GDL or a faction of them was present in Annapolis, or that someone was necessarily copying the GDL’s literature.
If a suspect were to be identified, the most they could be charged with would be littering, Brandford said.
“There’s no specific threats, or no one’s reported that there was any threats. … We don’t see, coming from the [Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, a central location for intelligence], any credible threat that would say something is imminent,” he said.
“But we’re keeping vigilant and making sure that we keep our eyes open and making sure that the community is aware,” Brandford added.
However, Buckley said that the flyers could rise to the level of a hate crime.
“Hate crimes are a very serious thing. So I think that there’s something you could be charged with by spreading that kind of hate,” Buckley said. “I don’t know what the levels of charges are, but I’d love someone like this, or an organization or group like this, to be brought to justice.”
Weisel urged continued vigilance in the securing of synagogues and other Jewish institutions, particularly in the wake of the attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, on Jan. 15. She also encouraged individuals to report incidents they witness, as the ADL relies on such reports to track antisemitic, discriminatory and bias incidents.
“Together that can help us combat antisemitism in our own communities,” Weisel said.