The flyers were discovered earlier this month in the Toco Hills area, which is known for having a vibrant Jewish community.
The DeKalb County Police Department’s homeland security unit is now investigating the flyers. The Anti-Defamation League is also looking into the incident, according to Allison Padilla-Goodman, the director of the league’s southeast region.
Lined with swastikas, one of the flyers described the Holocaust as a “Jew lie” and said Jewish people are “odious creatures,” according to pictures provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A separate anti-Muslim flyer said that Islam permits throwing acid in women’s faces if they refuse to get married.
“It’s important that we never become sensitized or normalized to this type of hateful rhetoric,” Padilla-Goodman said.
The police department said it received one report of the letters from a resident Dec. 19. Neighbors on Carolyn Drive said they saw two people wearing black jackets walking up and down the road between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. the night before.
“We take these types of incidents very seriously,” police said in a statement, adding that officers are “investigating if a crime was committed.”
The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta sent out a notice to its security committee about the flyers several days later. Officials have not said how many were found.
News of the flyers was made public just days after five Jewish people were stabbed at a Hasidic rabbi’s New York home in what authorities believe was an anti-Semitic attack. The Jewish community, especially in the New York area, has experienced an alarming number of anti-Semitic incidents in recent weeks, including a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, N.J. that left three people dead.
On Sunday, the Jewish community came together for a vigil in Toco Hills in response to the most recent attack in New York. They also lit a large menorah to celebrate the last night of Hannukah.
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on DeKalb police to “identify whoever posted these disgusting anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim flyers before the culprits escalate their hate speech into a hate crime.”
“If incidents like this occur in the future,” he said, “law enforcement should immediately alert the targeted communities so that we can take appropriate precautionary steps.”
In a statement Monday afternoon, DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond said the county “strongly rejects all acts of religious intolerance and bigotry that threaten the safety of our 750,000 residents.”
Padilla-Goodman pointed out that the discovery of bigoted flyers is not unusual for Atlanta or the rest of the country.
“It’s just a tried and true tactic of hate groups” seeking to “stay anonymous and espouse their virtues,” she said.
Research from the Anti-Defamation League found that the distribution of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic propaganda nearly tripled from 2017 to 2018 nationwide, with 1,187 incidents reported in 2018. A survey released earlier this year by the American Jewish Committee found that the majority of Jews in America view anti-Semitism as a problem that has increased over the past five years.
Padilla-Goodman said the league has archives of anti-Semitic flyers that experts can analyze in order to understand where new flyers might have come from. She said the ones found in DeKalb were “unusual” in their look and style, but not unique in the offensive message they promoted.
DeKalb officials urged residents to call 911 or the homeland security unit at 770-724-7880 if they see anyone distributing suspicious flyers or pamphlets, or if they have information regarding the incident in Toco Hills.
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