Residents near Stanton Park woke up last Monday to find anti-Semitic literature had been distributed to their homes.
Residents near Sixth and A Streets NE reported the fliers to police after finding them Monday, March 20. A representative from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) said that officers had investigated the materials and that there appears to be no threat at this time.
Acknowledging the anti-Semitic and offensive nature of the material content, a representative said that the materials were protected under the First Amendment.
“MPD, in consultation with our government and non-government partners, has determined the distribution and content of the fliers, while clearly bias-related, are protected free-speech and therefore not subject to law enforcement action or a criminal investigation,” said MPD Public Affairs Specialist Alaina Gertz.
The fliers are similar to others distributed throughout District neighborhoods in recent years. In emails distributed to residents and shared with the Hill Rag, Police said that they had investigated and that the person behind the pamphlets was a known conspiracy theorist who had been distributing similar literature for years. Officers told residents that they had conducted a threat analysis and determined that he was not a threat at this time, adding that there was a possibility of mental illness.
‘Part of a Wider Problem’
Cheryl Isaac is a member of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) DC Regional Board as well as a member of Capitol Hill Jewish Community, Hill Havurah.
Isaac forwarded the pamphlet to the ADL, and to Rabbi Hannah Spiro of Hill Havurah. She also heard from Lieutenant Brett A. Parson, of the MPD Special Liaison Unit. Calling Parson an ‘ally in the MPD’, Isaac said she was comforted to know that there was support for the Jewish community in MPD.
“It’s a resource for people who feel like they’re being affected by anti-Semitic sentiment,” she said.
Isaac said that the fliers are emblematic of a wider problem with anti-Semitism that the country appears to be having recently. “There’s a lot of people emboldened who have come out from under their rock with these views,” she said.
“I feel supported and safe living on the Hill with the help and support of the community,” Isaac added, “this is part of a wider problem with anti-Semitism right now in this nation.”
Hill Havurah Rabbi Hannah Spiro said that it wasn’t the first time she had heard of such materials being distributed in Hill neighborhoods, and it was unlikely to be the last.
“I hope our neighbors who find them will see them for the fantasy and the hate with which they’re filled, and I feel for each person who newly discovers these pamphlets in their neighborhood and feels unsafe as a result,” she said.
“Our congregation is planning a discussion series around anti-Semitism and racism,” said Spiro, “and we would love to welcome to the table anyone who is thinking about these topics or hurting after discovering these pamphlets and would like to share and learn together.”
MPD Encourages Reports
MPD spokesperson Gertz said that while freedom of speech is protected, MPD was interested in tracking materials of this nature. MPD encourages residents to report similar materials for police to investigate and document in a Bias-Related Incident Report.
“While this type of report will not result in a criminal investigation or arrest, it serves to maintain a record of the prevalence of such incidents, trends, and serves to assist us should it later be determined a criminal act has been committed by establishing a pattern of bias,” she said.
“MPD is committed to ensuring those who live, work, and visit the nation’s capital feel safe and secure. Any activity that makes one feel unsafe, seems suspicious, or causes one to believe theirs or other’s safety may be in jeopardy, should contact MPD immediately by calling 911.”