Annapolis and Anne Arundel police are investigating the distribution of antisemitic flyers found in at least two areas of the county over the weekend.
The flyers, which were placed inside clear plastic bags and weighed down with corn kernels, according to photos provided to The Capital, were found by residents in the Anchorage community on Mainsail Drive around 10:30 a.m. Sunday, said Lt. Jackie Davis, a county police spokesperson.
More flyers were found along Tyler Avenue in Annapolis, said Patti Norris, an Annapolis police spokesperson. Norris said it was unclear whether the flyers were distributed on Sunday or Monday. Annapolis police are investigating.
Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley condemned the act during Monday’s City Council meeting, calling the flyers “disgusting and disheartening.” He urged anyone with information to contact Annapolis police. Residents with information about the flyers should call the tip line at 410-368-4141.
“It is sad that there are people coming into our community distributing this hateful disinformation. I have spoken with our police chief and this will not be tolerated,” Buckley said. “Annapolis is a diverse, loving, inclusive and caring community. Acts of hatred and bigotry will not find a home here.”
The flyers contained accusations that Jewish people are responsible for the coronavirus pandemic and listed 15 people who are involved in the fictitious agenda, including the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several pharmaceutical executives. The literature also provided a link to a website featuring an antisemitic catchphrase that was full of videos peddling false conspiracy theories about supposed Jewish involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks and other events.
Ashley Bower, president of the Anchorage Community Homeowners Association, said she was “absolutely horrified” when she found a flyer outside her house Sunday. “Nearly every home” in the community received one, she said.
Bower, a 10-year resident of the Annapolis area community, immediately called police. Another resident reported the incident to the Anti-Defamation League.
Bower said she had never experienced anything like this.
“It is a flyer that is blatantly blaming people that believe in Judaism for the COVID pandemic,” she said. “As somebody who appreciates history, it is far too reminiscent of other claims against Jews across the world. It is very upsetting. I thought that our greater Annapolis community was a little more accepting and above this.”
Detectives from the South District are investigating the incident. Anne Arundel County residents can report tips to detectives at 410-222-1960 or send anonymous tips to 410-222-4700.
The Morning Sun
The incidents come just days after a man took four hostages at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. All four hostages were released safely after a standoff. The alleged hostage-taker was fatally shot by law enforcement, according to local news reports.
“This is a national effort. It’s happening everywhere and it’s disappointing that it happened here,” Bower said.
These kinds of hate/bias incidents are part of the reason the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion was established, County Executive Steuart Pittman said during a Tuesday news conference. Pittman said he was briefed about the report Monday by Pete Hill, director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
“[Antisemitism] has no place in our county and our police department and all county government, and I believe our residents will do everything they can to stamp it out and express love rather than hate for our neighbors,” Pittman said.
Hill, who was hired in July, said he receives reports of this nature all the time and, while the frequency of hate/bias incidents has increased over time, no particular group has been targeted more than another. He urged anyone who experiences an incident of hate/bias to report it to Anne Arundel County police.
The state of Maryland’s 2019 Hate Bias Report showed hate bias incidents increased slightly in Anne Arundel County from 2018, continuing an upward trend that began in 2014. A report published last year showed a 27% decrease in reported hate/bias incidents between 2019 and 2020; however, those reports may have been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic when people largely stayed indoors and away from public places and schools where most incidents were reported in prior years.