“Help us win back your rights that have been given to others,” read the KKK recruitment information flyers, neatly folded into plastic bags and weighted down with gravel, seed or sand. “The Jew’s [sic] are taking over and The [sic] n—–s are right behind them.” Others came with phrenology diagrams. The bags were found on stoops, in the gutter, in alleyways and on sidewalks.
The flyers and their packages were discovered late on Oct. 18 in the Riverside/ Locust Point area.
“This is disgusting,” said Sarah Mersky, deputy director of the Baltimore Jewish Council and a Locust Point resident, describing her initial thoughts upon hearing about the flyers on the morning of the 19th. “I can’t believe this happened in our neighborhood.”
“I wanted to run around and pick them all up,” said Denny Chapman, a neighborhood resident. “But part of me wants to make sure that the world sees this stuff.”
It’s the second time in the last month that flyers bearing the signature of the Maryland chapter of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan have been found in the neighborhood. The chapter did not respond to a request for comment.
If a Baltimore Sun report published on Oct. 18 is any indication, this kind of incident is not out of the ordinary.
According to the Sun’s investigation into two years of hate incidents, Maryland law enforcement agencies received 398 reports of hate or bias in 2017, a 35 percent increase over the previous year — the highest level in the state since 2007.
The report also noted that Jews were the group second-most likely to be targeted in hate-related incidents, after African- Americans.
“I didn’t even need that report to tell me what we hear via the community all time,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. “It’s clear there’s been a spike in bias crimes across the nation, and it’s clear that Maryland is not an exception, and neither is Virginia or D.C.”
There are limits to the conclusions that can be drawn from the data, according to experts interviewed by the JT. It’s difficult to ascertain whether the level fluctuates based on the number of actual incidents, people’s willingness to report or some combination of the two. And of the total, not every incident can be verified by the police — in fact, 52 percent were classified by police as “inconclusive.” It’s also not clear how many state law enforcement agencies underreport their bias-related incidents.
But those factors are countered by a study by the Department of Justice, which concluded that the FBI’s nationwide tally of hate-crimes — 6,121 in 2016 — was approximately 140,000 incidents short of the actual number.
“While it is difficult to attribute the rise to any one factor, it is eminently clear that haters are feeling empowered and are acting on their hate with increasing frequency in our schools, on campus, in neighborhoods and online,” Doron F. Ezickson, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Washington, D.C., said in a statement. “We continue to encourage reporting by the public of all hate incidents which enables authorities to be aware of activities and address the risk they pose.” Ezickson’s office represents D.C., Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.
Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, praised what he characterized as forceful and immediate response to such incidents over the last year, both by the communities where they’ve taken place and by other faith communities. He also said that the data described by the Baltimore Sun reflected his experience over the last two years. “I think, unfortunately, some hate groups have felt empowered,” he said. He also said that he believe the total number was probably much higher than 398.
A police investigation into the incident is underway, though the Baltimore Police Department could not confirm anything beyond that. In the meantime, Mersky said her neighbors have talked about putting up anti-hate flyers in their windows and have offered resources to parents who want to speak to their children about the packages.