As antisemitic propaganda increases, fliers are appearing around Florida
An assessment by the Anti-Defamation League finds that incidents of antisemitic propaganda increased by 27% in the United States last year.
And antisemitic fliers left in driveways in the Orlando area and around Florida are part of that disturbing trend.
Unwanted propaganda in Winter Park
Julie Capps is a mom with two high school-age kids living in Winter Park near Maitland. One Thursday late last month, she was getting ready to drive her daughter to school. In the driveway, she saw a flier in a Ziploc baggie weighted down with rocks.
"So I went ahead and scooped it up," she said, "and put it in the car between me and my child and then I realized what the message was and, you know, was very shocked."
The flier blamed members of the Jewish community for "the COVID agenda."
On the way back home, Capps noticed fliers in all the driveways, she said. "And that's when it really just kind of shook me to my core how widely distributed this message had been."
At first, she was sad for her neighborhood, thinking someone there had distributed the fliers. She worried about kids being exposed to hate.
Then she got angry.
"I was very angry that anybody thought," Capps said, "especially in the dark of night like a coward, that this was something to do. I was furious that they felt OK to drive up into my neighborhood and drop this kind of hateful message."
Happening all over Florida
The ADL tracks bigotry against the Jewish community and monitors other forms of extremist hate. It counted nearly 5,000 cases of hate-based propaganda in the U.S. last year.
That's a slight decrease from 2020.
But anti-Jewish propaganda increased. There were 352 real-world incidents of antisemitic propaganda, including graffiti, banners, posters, and fliers.
The ADL says the small but active hate group behind the Winter Park fliers began a nationwide campaign in December and has continued that into 2022, with incidents in 17 states.
Yael Hershfield is director of incident response and law enforcement initiatives for ADL's Southern Division.
She says the hate group's message -- blaming Jews for the pandemic -- follows a familiar form of antisemitism that targets the Jewish community as the scapegoat for society’s ills.
"Yes, these are conspiracy theories," Hershfield said. "They're hateful messages. And one may say, well, those are just words. But words lead to actions."
And we're probably going to see more of this, Hershfield said. "We are just going to be experiencing this kind of activity more regularly. We have experienced reports from Orlando, from Maitland, from Ormond Beach, Daytona, Fort Myers, Melbourne, Miami Beach ... I mean almost every single major city in the state of Florida has been targeted."
The flier in Winter Park claimed a connection to the “Nick Fuentes fan club.” Fuentes, a white nationalist, was leading the America First Political Action Conference in Orlando that day.
But Hershfield says the group was just trolling Fuentes and his conference for not being antisemitic enough.
"This is a case of which hate group is more hateful, right?" she said. "And who can claim the crown to the most hateful anti-semitic group."
For her part, the mom in Winter Park tried to counter the message. Capps called the Police Department and posted to social media.
"I wanted," she said, "it to have a broader awareness that this was happening and that there was a voice that thought it was not OK."
Capps says she was speaking up to say that this kind of hate will not be tolerated in her community.