At least one anti-Semitic flier recently was sighted, posted on a pole in downtown Tucson. Tucson Police Department Sgt. Ben Frie told the AJP on Aug. 7 that “they started showing up about a week ago … at a couple of different locations.”
Paul Patterson, Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s security consultant, brought the initial sighting to TPD’s attention. Frie, a special investigator with Street Crimes Interdiction, which handles hate and bias crimes, said that TPD opened a case on the instance. “We are aware of what it is and have documented it,” he said, adding that the postings are removed after that.
“This image has made the rounds on social media,” said Lt. Colin King, TPD chief of staff, of the photo at right. “And our Hate/Bias Crimes investigative unit has been evaluating the circumstances. There was, unfortunately, no video of the area or any available suspect information.” TPD canvassed the downtown area on Aug. 7 and noted that all of the city poles in the area had been cleared of handbills and stickers.
Patterson said that when he initially received an email photo of the sticker, he notified TPD. He went to the location the next morning, discovering the sticker was removed. “The problem is, one sticker on one signpost was shared over 4,000 times on Facebook,” he said, explaining that single sticker got more people seeing it over social media than it ever would have on the street, adding that nevertheless it was a good thing it was shared because that enabled law enforcement to do something about it.
“This is the kind of vile hate speech that must be brought to an end,” said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “I’m confident that TPD will give this matter the attention it deserves, and any perpetrators will qualify for enhanced hate crime penalties at sentencing.”
“It seems the guy has an ax to grind against Jews. It is a hate-filled message that walks a fine line with the First Amendment,” Frie said. While the incidents are not hate crimes, the perpetrator can be charged with criminal damage as a misdemeanor, since the fliers were posted on public property. “Any time you see these, let us know. They have no right to post on city property,” he said.
In March 2017, Tucson passed a code to heighten penalties for the commission of hate crimes, adding health care facilities to the list of places like houses of worship, schools, and cemeteries, and adjacent properties, as targets of institutional vandalism. Posting these fliers at such facilities would become a hate crime, Frie explained.
“One likes to think things like this wouldn’t happen in Tucson,” said Tony Zinman of Tucson Jews for Justice. “It’s not much of a surprise. It is consistent with the national rhetoric and what they’re saying about left-wing radicals buying Congress. Like what happened in El Paso, people are following up on what they hear. Tucson being what it is, I think we’ll get community support on this when it gets out there.”
“At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in the U.S. and abroad, this flyer is promoting the ugly, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews have an outsized influence over the media, banks, and government,” Carlos Galindo-Elvira, ADL Arizona regional director, told the AJP. “These notions are well-worn, anti-Semitic tropes, and pillars of modern anti-Semitism that perpetuate dangerous stereotypes.”