On the morning of July 4, Amy left her house for work and found a ziplock bag in her driveway. Inside the bag she could see a pair of pennies and a sheet of paper folded neatly in half. Printed along the top was a blue Star of David, a red pentagram and a headline in all-caps: “EVERY SINGLE ASPECT OF THE COVID AGENDA IS JEWISH.”
Beneath the headline was a list of people, including CDC officials, politicians and business executives, all of whom were identified (or mis-identified, in some cases) as either Jewish or “Shabbos goy,” a Yiddish term for a non-Jew employed by Jews for certain tasks.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh my god, these people are morons. What idiots,’” Amy told the Outpost in a phone interview. But after she thought about it for a moment, she began to wonder whether she’d been specifically targeted. While she considers herself agnostic, Amy is of Ashkenazi heritage and on the Chabad of Humboldt mailing list. (We’re using a pseudonym to protect her identity.
When Amy’s friend took her dog for a walk later that day she spotted two more of the antisemitic flyers that had been places in baggies and tossed in front of people’s homes. Other Arcata residents have since posted photos of the hateful material on social media.
“Went outside today and found ANTISEMITIC propaganda all over my neighborhood,” reads one Instagram post. “Feeling very hurt, scared and confused [right now].”
Photos in the post showed the same distribution method: two flyers, each carefully inserted in a plastic bag along with a pair of pennies, presumably to weigh them down. Printed in the same format as the one Amy found, one claims, “Every single aspect of the Biden administration is Jewish” while another says, “Every single aspect of Disney child grooming is Jewish.”
Teresa Drenick, deputy regional director for the Central Pacific region of the Anti-Defamation League, is quite familiar with the spread of these bigoted baggies.
“We are seeing that happen all over California and pretty much all over the United States at this point,” Drenick said when reached by phone on Wednesday. The organization behind the flyers has been identified and extensively researched by the ADL, but the Outpost has chosen not to identify it or the people behind it since they so clearly crave such attention and use it to recruit other lost souls into their hate-filled ideology.
“The stunt is the work of a cowardly group that espouses white supremacist themes and Holocaust denial,” Drenick said. “It’s known to focus its hatred and vitriol toward the Jewish community and other marginalized communities — oftentimes the LGBTQ-plus community as well.”
Based in Northern California, the group is “small and fringe,” a loosely knit group of individuals that has nevertheless managed to distribute its materials in communities from Florida to Texas, California and beyond, according to reports compiled by the ADL. The group’s aim, Drenick said, is to intimidate and sow fear in the community.
The ADL conducts an annual audit of antisemitic incidents for each of its regional divisions as well as the country as a whole, and Drenick said the numbers have never been higher. The organization’s Central Pacific region, which includes Northern California, Utah and Hawaii, saw a 27 percent increase last year, seeing 367 reports of antisemitic incidents including harassment, vandalism and assault.
Here in Northern California, the Jewish community encountered “a persistent drumbeat of hatred,” Drenick said. Last year there were 70 reported incidents of antisemitism in the region, including 28 instances of vandalism and 42 cases of targeted harassment, both online and in person — “everything from swastikas being spray-painted on the walls of places of worship and schools to people being directly targeted.”
Nationwide, the organization documented 2,717 antisemitic incidents last year — the highest figure on record since the ADL started tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.
The flyer Amy received is indicative of one aspect within this larger trend — a rise in antisemitic reactions to some of the public health measures implemented in response to the COVID pandemic. By way of example, Drenick pointed to recent incidents that took place in our NorCal neighbor, Siskiyou County.
Last summer, four of that county’s supervisors participated in a public demonstration protesting the state’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. A number of attendees wore yellow Stars of David, which Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe.
“The exploitation of the yellow star as political prop is entirely inappropriate,” Drenick said. The comparison between a measure aimed at protecting public health and the horrors of Holocaust serves to minimize those atrocities and is itself an form of antisemitism, she added, noting that swastikas have likewise been invoked by many protesting public health measures.
Amy wound up reporting the flyer in her driveway to the Arcata Police Department, which Drenick said is a good idea. While the distribution of hate speech is not in itself a crime (unless there’s a specific incitement to violence), such incidents are still worth reporting.
“Any police agency wants and needs to be very aware of hate-related activity taking place in the community it protects,” Drenick said.
An Arcata police officer stopped by Amy’s house on Tuesday to collect the flyer and take a report. Amy’s neighbor captured security camera footage of the car she believes was driven by the culprit, and she turned that over to the police as well.
A message at the bottom of the flyer says, “These flyers were distributed randomly without malicious intent.” It may well be true that they were randomly distributed, but Amy isn’t buying the claim about an absence of malicious intent.
“It’s a little threatening,” she said. “It’s meant to make people like me feel unwelcome and unsafe.”
Arcata Police Chief Brian Ahearn told the Outpost via email that the agency is in the early stages of an investigation into the flyers and “evaluating if there is a criminal nexus.”
Drenick said that in addition to notifying law enforcement, anyone who receives such material should report it to the ADL via its website to help the organization track such actions.
Amy said it’s important for the public to be made aware of such things, too.
“The whole thing is so sad and really embarrassing, to be somebody who does that — it’s just so cringey and lame, but it’s sad,” she said. “I feel like it’s worth making a big fuss and reporting it because people should know this is out there. Even in Humboldt there are people who are both stupid and hateful.”