Orange Park, FL

Police say people who scattered anti-semitic flyers around Orange Park pose ‘no imminent danger’

Zoey Fields

Anti-semitic flyers were littered in the yards of residents in the town of Orange Park, Jacksonville and other Clay County neighborhoods Sunday, the Orange Park Police Department reported via Facebook.

“Recently, subjects unknown have dropped anti-semitic literature in some neighborhoods around Town and around Clay County as well,” the post reads. “The Town of Orange Park has no room for this hate speech garbage […] Feel free to throw them away if you see them.”

The agency stated there is no imminent danger to the community regarding the flyers, or from those who are distributing them.

While there is no apparent threat to the community, they acknowledge that anti-semitism has its own dangers. They said the people who have been spreading the flyers are known and have been investigated. The names of the individuals have not been released by the police department.

“[Those responsible] at this point (outside of spreading awful ideology) have not presented an imminent physical threat to anyone,” the agency said.

Former Duval County Rep. Jason Fischer took to Twitter to condemn the flyer, which was “littered in his driveway,” according to his post.

“We condemn those responsible for this in the strongest terms possible,” Fischer said.

The flyer posted by Fischer reads: “Today the ADL’s power has grown exponentially, and they wield it with the intention of displacing and replacing White Americans.”

ADL, or Anti-Defamation League, is a worldwide anti-hate organization that works to fight against all forms of anti-semitism and violence, according to its webpage. Founded in 1913, the organization’s mission is to protect democracy and ensure a just and inclusive society for all citizens.

Click here to learn about ADL and ways to prevent anti-semitic hate.

Orange Park and Clay County residents expressed their questions and concerns on the Orange Park Police Department’s Facebook post, asking about whether or not they should report the flyers as a hate crime.

“We suggested you throw the flyers away but want to reiterate, you may always call us first to determine if there is any action that can be taken on our end to see what you can do to help,” the police department responded.

While hate speech is defined as abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice on the basis of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or similar grounds, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that criminalizing hate speech is in violation of the First Amendment protecting one’s rights to the freedom of speech, according to the U.S. Supreme Court webpage.

Hate crimes, however, are punishable under law and include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Most state hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of race, color, and religion; many also include crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability,” the U.S. Department of Justice webpage said.

The Orange Park Police Department included a lengthy response to one resident who asked if the flyers would be considered a hate crime that needs to be investigated.

“There is no legal definition of ‘hate speech’ under U.S. law, just as there is no legal definition for evil ideas, rudeness, unpatriotic speech or any other kind of speech that people might condemn,” the post said while also referencing the Supreme Court case Snyder v. Phelps for legal reasoning.

Click here to learn more about the Snyder v. Phelps Supreme Court case.

“Under current First Amendment jurisprudence, hate speech can only be criminalized when it directly incites imminent criminal activity or consists of specific threats of violence targeted against a person or group,” Orange Park Police explained. “In this particular case, the speech isn’t encouraging violence against anyone or providing any specific rhetoric encouraging violent or criminal behavior.”
The anti-semitic flyers were found in plastic baggies filled with sand and scattered throughout Clay and Duval counties, police said.Photo byRep. Jason Fischer Twitter

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Accredited journalist with experience covering a wide range of stories consisting of breaking news, city and county government, crime and courts, feature stories and local interest. Facebook Bulletin writer, reporter; The Learning Curve. Twitter: @zoeyfields0

Jacksonville, FL

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