CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Antisemitic flyers found in St. George neighborhood and nationwide

Jul 28, 2022, 6:00 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 10:21 am
Antisemitic flyers found in St. George, Utah. The FBI is aware of the situation....
The FBI's field office in Salt Lake City is pictured on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. (Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Antisemitic flyers found in a St. George neighborhood appear to be the most recent example of a nationwide trend. 

Someone put the flyers in Ziploc bags and weighed them down with rice. The flyers repeat hateful, debunked assertions about Jewish people.

But similar antisemitic flyers have turned up in other plastic baggies. In all cases, whoever placed the flyers weighed the baggies down with either rice or corn. And they were found in a number of other places. KSL found reports of antisemitic flyers in baggies, discovered found from Colorado to Minnesota to New York to Florida, and more.

Read more: FBI Confidential: Hate crimes know no boundaries

The FBI Salt Lake City division said it is aware of the antisemitic messaging in St. George. It is working with local partners on the situation. The division asked residents to stay vigilant and report suspicious activity.

The Anti-Defamation League said antisemitic incidents are up by about a third nationwide from a year ago.

To date, no group has claimed responsibility for these flyers. 

Antisemitic flyers: Hate speech or hate crime?

Local agencies may investigate potential hate crimes, but not always. In an interview with the KSL podcast FBI Confidential in 2018, Supervisory Special Agent Michelle Pickens said the FBI frequently becomes involved after a local agency alerts them to a possible hate crime.

The flyers could constitute hate speech rather than a hate crime. In that interview, Pickens said hate speech may be offensive but not necessarily threatening. 

“The difference is, hate speech is – though it may be offensive to most people, it is protected under the First Amendment,” she said.

Supreme Court rulings have established what the limits of those rights are; First Amendment protections do not extend to threats. 

“One of the benefits and liberties we have, living in our country, is that you can say whatever you want,” Pickens said. “Where you cross the line, where that becomes a potential hate crime is a threat. And if there is a threat in that speech that is directed towards an individual, because of a protection [such as race, religion, orientation, etc.] . . . and you threatened that individual, or that individual perceived that as a significant threat that you could carry out, that’s where you cross the line into it being a potential hate crime.” 

This story has replaced a previous story published by KSL NewsRadio to reflect information from confirmed sources.

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Antisemitic flyers found in St. George neighborhood and nationwide