RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Residents in Westover Hills area are speaking out after finding antisemitic flyers in their neighborhood, less than two months after similar materials were distributed in Bon Air.

The flyers were most recently discovered by residents in Richmond on July 23. Jane Stone said she was out walking her dog that Saturday morning when she noticed something strange in her neighbors’ driveways.

“I started seeing the plastic baggies all in the neighborhood, and it was really random,” she said. “Most of my neighbors are absolutely disgusted.”

Stone said she took photos of the flyers, which were distributed in bags that also had rocks in them. The flyers noted that they had been distributed randomly and without malicious intent. But Stone said she was frightened by the imagery, which included the Star of David on the foreheads of various public officials, and propaganda equating gun control and immigration with Judaism.

Antisemitic flyer distributed in Westover Hills
Antisemitic flyer distributed in Westover Hills. Photo credit: Jane Stone

“It was disgusting. It was gross,” she said. “I wish it didn’t happen anywhere, and especially wish it didn’t happen in my neighborhood. But it’s just sad to see.”

A spokesperson for the Richmond Police Department (RPD) said that authorities were aware of the incident and had taken a report.

The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, a local nonprofit, issued a statement in the Westover Hills wake of the flyer distribution:

The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond and its Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) strongly condemn the virulently antisemitic flyers distributed again recently in neighborhoods around Richmond. These flyers, distributed by a white supremacist group, perpetuate long-held falsities and stereotypes about the Jewish Community. Law enforcement is aware of the issue and is actively investigating the incidents. We are grateful to law enforcement for their swift response and the seriousness with which they are approaching the investigation.

This comes less than two months after similar flyers, also found in plastic bags with rocks, were distributed in Chesterfield County.

Westover Hills neighborhood where the Antisemitic flyers were distributed. Photo credit: Olivia Jaquith

The nonprofit organization, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), noted that incidents of antisemitism and overall white supremacy are on the rise in Central Virginia in 2022.

“Coming out of the COVID-19 lockdown, there’s more individuals to not only recruit but intimidate,” said Morgan Moon, an investigative researcher with the ADL. “Even though law enforcement might not be able to do something about it at that moment because it does not fall within criminality, it is important for them to understand what groups are operating within their space.”

According to the ADL, in Virginia, 46 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2021, a 6% decrease from the 49 incidents reported in 2020, and a 64% increase from the 28 incidents reported in 2019. This included 35 incidents of harassment and 11 incidents of vandalism.

In Chesterfield County, police noted two instances of antisemitic flyers being distributed in Midlothian in 2021, similar to what Stone found more recently in her neighborhood. In Henrico County, police also investigated instances of white supremacist propaganda in October of that year, which was distributed in Varina and Fairfield.

“Virginia continues to have a very active extremist presence,” Moon said. “In 2021, Virginia was the second-highest state with reported incidents of white supremacist propaganda, following closely behind Pennsylvania, and this is due largely to the fact that there are many active white supremacist chapters operating in the state.”

Additionally, Virginia State Police (VSP) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) track hate crime data in the Commonwealth. According to VSP’s 2021 Crime in Virginia report, there were 123 hate crime offenses that year, representing a 35.3% decrease compared to the previous year. However, most of the hate crimes were racially or ethnically motivated.

According to the DOJ, there were 143 reported hate crimes in Virginia in 2018; 163 in 2019; and 170 in 2020.

“I’m afraid people are going to just sweep it under the rug and not care about it,” Stone said. “Other neighborhoods just keep getting targeted, and I just don’t want people to forget that this is happening, that there are these hateful people out there, and we don’t know how many they are, and we don’t know when the flyers are going to escalate to something else. So it’s just important to remember that this is here.”