Panitch, a Democrat from Sandy Springs, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “while people are free to be openly antisemitic, they are not free to trespass or commit other crimes on property owned by other Georgia citizens.”
Sunday’s incident garnered attention from multiple local and state government leaders and is just the latest in a series in which the metro area has seen a dramatic increase in reported antisemitic incidents.
Panitch is among the sponsors of House Bill 30, which was introduced last month and would provide an official state definition of antisemitism. It could be used as the basis of enhanced penalties under hate crimes laws and anti-discriminatory litigation, she said.
The Sandy Springs Police Department said it is aware of the flyers and is investigating. No arrests had been made as of Sunday afternoon.
Gov. Brian Kemp said on Twitter that state law enforcement is at the ready to assist local police in their investigations.
“This kind of hate has no place in our state and the individuals responsible do not share Georgia’s values,” he wrote. “We will always condemn acts of antisemitism.”
Former state Rep. Mike Wilensky, a Jewish Democrat from DeKalb County, also had flyers appear on his street.
“Please be kind to each other and speak up for each other. I want to personally thank the neighbor who picked them up on my street,” he said in a statement. “May my kids grow up in a society that is bending toward kindness and not hate.”
In a newsletter to his community, Rabbi Joshua Heller of Congregation B’nai Torah in Sandy Springs said many of his congregants were feeling a “sense of violation at finding hate in front of our homes.”
“One of the reasons we exist as a congregation, and as a larger Jewish community, is to provide ‘strength in numbers’ in the face of whatever we may need to confront,” he wrote. “This is one of those times.”
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul also weighed in, saying he hopes the flyers came from outside the city.
“Whoever is responsible is unwelcome here,” he said in a statement. “We are a tolerant community, but this behavior is intolerable.”
Residents in multiple Dunwoody neighborhoods also were hit with the flyers, including the Meadowlake, Woodlands and Dunwoody Club Forest subdivisions, according to City Councilman Rob Price.
“This is a form of overt hate directed towards our citizens, and since they were left at individual houses, also a form of terrorism. That this occurred in my community and in fact my own neighborhood saddens and angers me,” Price said in a statement. “Whether visitor or resident, whoever did this is not welcome here. Our citizens deserve better.”
The Dunwoody Police Department said it is investigating and that it is working closely with Sandy Springs police.
Both police Chief Billy Grogan and Mayor Lynn Deutsch assured residents that the hatred displayed on the flyers had no place in Dunwoody.
“At our Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Jews, Christians and Muslims worked together planting daffodils in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust,” Deutsch said. “I stand with our Jewish community and all who face intolerance. I believe that love always conquers hate. Please be good to each other.”
The fliers are being distributed by antisemitic groups, such as the Goyim Defense League and White Lives Matter, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. The organization has defined the groups as racist networks that are focused on espousing hate in the Jewish community.
GDL often performs “stunts,” said Ben Popp, a researcher with the ADL, such as spreading flyers, dropping banners from overpasses and holding demonstrations at popular places.
“First and foremost, they are looking for attention and to cause controversy and stir up emotions,” he said. “An extension of that is a normalization of hate — to desensitize people to hateful rhetoric and imagery — so antisemitic behavior becomes less shocking.”
Popp added, “They’re a group that’s a cause for concern.”
The groups have been using these tactics for more than a year, the AJC has previously reported. But the incidents have become more numerous in recent weeks.
Residents in Newnan, Macon, Carrollton, Rockmart, Columbus and Cartersville have reported finding the plastic bags with flyers.
The loosely organized groups use social media, especially the encrypted messaging app, Telegram, and live-streaming platforms, to publicize otherwise relatively low-impact, low-cost activities like putting leaflets on car windshields and placing stickers in public view.
They also make money off their activities by soliciting donations on their streaming platforms and selling merchandise, such as Nazi-themed T-shirts. The GDL even sells its leaflets, pre-folded and bagged for distribution.
Experts who follow the extreme right agree that these groups are small. Activities like the distribution of fliers, posting of propaganda in public places or dropping homemade banners from overpasses are meant to make their numbers appear greater.