MANCHESTER, NH – Ross Terrio wasn’t sure what he was looking at when he saw a Ziploc bag on the edge of his lawn Friday morning. Trash, maybe, but yet, it looked more deliberate.
When he investigated further, he found it to be a folded flier tucked in a sandwich-size bag associating prominent Jewish people to “the COVID Agenda” on one side, and a pro-Trump slogan, “Let’s Go Brandon,” and a dozen high-ranking govenment officials, who are Jewish, on the other side. After checking with some of his neighbors he found he wasn’t the only one.
So he posted photos of the bag and its contents on the Ward 7 Facebook page: “Crazy conspiracy theory Kook alert: Be on the lookout for unhinged anti-Semite’s dropping off pamphlets blaming Covid on Jewish people.”
Then, he called Manchester police, who told him they were already aware of the fliers –calls with similar reports were coming in from across the city.
In a North End neighborhood, the same delivery system – a Ziploc sandwich bag weighted down with unpopped popcorn kernels – contained a different flier, this one pointing to Jewish members of the U.S. Congress and Senate who over the years had “written, introduced and co-sponsored” federal gun control laws.
There is a reference to a website which is associated with The Goyim Defense League, described by the Anti-Defamation League as a loose national network of people who spread anti-Semitic ideology.
Rabbi Beth Davidson of Temple Adath Yashurun in Manchester had not seen the bags herself, but when she was provided with photos, she was not surprised.
“Earlier this week we had word of fliers that were distributed in a Portsmouth neighborhood, the majority were put on the lawns of two Jewish residents, and these were from a known hate group in New Hampshire,” said Davidson. In that instance, the Massachusetts-based Nationalist Social Club was credited on the flier for the information, which has been labeled by the American Defamation League as a neo-nazi organization exclusive to New England.
NHPR in June reported on the organization, which uses Republican talking points to recruit young white conservative males, often on college campuses.
Above: Fliers distributed in Portsmouth by Massachusetts-based openly anti-Semitic group, The Nationalist Social Club.
According to the Anti-Defamation League website incident tracker, fliers with almost identical content to the one reported by Terrio have been tracked with wide distribution since January in states from coast to coast. Those fliers – like the ones found in Manchester – link back to The Goyim Defense League.
This week’s reports from Portsmouth, and now Manchester, are the first such complaints recorded in New Hampshire.
Davidson said she had been preparing Friday afternoon for what she was going to say to her congregation during the evening service, and was planning to include the evidence of anti-semitism in Portsmouth. After seeing photos of the fliers distributed in Manchester, not far from her synagogue, she was moved to rewrite her sermon.
“I will say that Manchester is committed to diversity and we have fortunately not had incidents like this before. It’s disappointing that somebody with this kind of hate-driven philosophy would try to infect a neighborhood – and our city.”
She wondered aloud if it could be the same people who littered Portsmouth with fliers earlier in the week.
So far, police in Manchester say they are actively investigating the many complaints received about the fliers on Friday, collecting as many of them as they could.
Late Friday Mayor Joyce Craig issued this statement about the fliers: “Anti-semitism in any form is not welcome here in Manchester. I stand with our Jewish community against this and all hate speech. This matter is being taken very seriously and the Manchester Police Department is conducting a thorough investigation.”
The fliers did not include any threat of violence, police noted. Still, for Davidson, the hatred – and the messaging – should be enough to alarm us all.
“I’m not so paranoid to think it’s a concerted campaign, but if Portsmouth was hit and Manchester was hit, I wonder if it’s the same group that took credit in Portsmouth,” Davidson said. ‘They are actively recruiting here.”