Authorities are investigating the distribution of antisemitic and racist flyers in Colleyville, Texas, where a gunman took worshippers hostage at a synagogue last month. Colleyville is one of dozens of cities across the U.S. that have reported similar distribution of flyers in recent weeks.
"The Colleyville Police Department is aware of anti-Semitic and white separatist materials distributed in clear sandwich bags to driveways around the city overnight," the department announced on Sunday. "We have been in contact with the FBI and are investigating [it] as a Hate Crime."
The flyers were placed in plastic bags and weighed down with pebbles. Police told Fox 7 that there were hundreds of them. One flyer claimed that "every single aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish," while another read, "Black lives murder white children," according to the station.
Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton said the city "unequivocally denounces hate in any form." He added that the distribution "appears to be a coordinated effort in cities across the country," saying he was "saddened that individuals chose to bring this intolerance to Colleyville."
Congregation Beth Israel — the synagogue where a gunman held a rabbi and three congregants hostage for hours on Jan. 15 — said in a statement that some congregants had found the flyers on their properties.
"We are hopeful that the individual(s) responsible will be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," the statement read, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "Circulating hate speech cannot be taken lightly."
Police noted that Colleyville isn't the only city — in or beyond Texas — where the antisemitic flyers are showing up. Similar materials were also found on driveways in nearby Garland, and residents in two Houston neighborhoods woke up to racist and antisemitic flyers the previous weekend.
Similar materials were distributed recently in San Francisco, Miami and Denver, police added. But the scope of the distribution actually appears to have been much broader, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
"Over the weekend we saw #antisemitic fliering in two dozen cities across nine states, including Colleyville, TX, less than 2 months after the terror attack at Congregation Beth Israel," the organization tweeted on Tuesday. "We cannot ignore #antisemitic hate."
It's the continuation of a trend that has been reported across the U.S. in recent weeks. (The ADL tracks antisemitic incidents here.)
Hundreds of flyers falsely blaming Jewish people for "the COVID agenda" were distributed to homes in neighborhoods across South Florida — including Miami Beach, Surfside and Fort Lauderdale — in late January, a week after the hostage incident and just days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
A copy obtained by CNN at the time showed an image of the Star of David and a list of government health officials, pharmaceutical company leaders and heads of investment management companies. The flyer inaccurately characterized them all as Jewish and included other "Jewish hate speech" on the back, according to CNN.
Similar flyers were distributed in Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas, California and Maryland around the same time, according to the Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region. The organization said that flyers in the Denver metro area were reportedly placed in plastic bags containing rice and that "white supremacist and anti-vaccine propaganda was also distributed locally with the antisemitic messages."
The ADL said the flyers appear to be the work of a "loose network of individuals that engages in antisemitic stunts to harass Jews." It did not name the network, but media outlets have identified it as the Goyim Defense League.
"Individuals associated with this network include a range of antisemites and white supremacists who are motivated and united by their hatred of Jews," the ADL added. "The most zealous individuals are in Colorado, California, Florida and New York. They work alone, in small cliques and occasionally travel across the country to work together in larger teams."
The flyer distribution comes amid a recent rise in antisemitism in the United States. The ADL said it documented 2,024 antisemitic incidents across the U.S. in 2020, the third-highest number on record since it began tracking them in 1979.
This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.