Anti-Semitic leaflets in schools in Santa Monica lead to investigations

On Thursday morning, anti-Semitic leaflets that appear to associate Jewish people with the anti-vaccine movement were discovered in several elementary and middle schools in Santa Monica.

School staff who arrived before 8 a.m. found the posters on walls and signage, among other things, said Gail Pinsker, spokeswoman for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. At one school, a book donation flyer was attached to a trash can and another was attached to an electrical unit, she said.

On Thursday evening, district officials were aware of seven schools where the leaflets had been left, a number up from four the day before. Five were elementary schools and two were middle schools, Pinsker said.

The flyers show a red and green Star of David with the sentence “Anti-Vaxxer” written on it in white block letters.

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified and the City of Santa Monica released a joint statement condemning the act.

“Santa Monica rejects bigotry of any kind and anti-Semitic rhetoric, intolerance, harassment and violence have no place in our schools or in our community,” the statement said. “We are deeply offended by the anti-Semitic posters that falsely and nefariously portray the pro-vaccine propaganda found in several of our schools.”

A message on the flyers tells people to report those who are against vaccines “because you care and they don’t” and includes a number for the text.

An SMS to the number with an area code for Kentucky states that it is an “Anti Vax Reporting Hotline” operated by the Safer Tomorrow Organization.

“We are a group of parents and concerned citizens who are securing the future of our children,” reads the SMS.

When more information is requested, an automated response states that the organization “is beginning to gather information about Anti-Vaxxer (but not respond to it). It goes on to say: “This is how we as a society can work together on a solution.”

Leaflets were found at Edison Language Academy, the Will Rogers Learning Community, and McKinley, Roosevelt, and Grant Elementary Schools, and John Adams and Lincoln Middle Schools, according to school officials. Posters are believed to have surfaced in Roosevelt late in the day after school, Pinsker said in an update.

District and city officials said all posters with sticky backs had been removed by the evening.

“Together we want to ensure that all of our students, families and employees, regardless of race, religion or other identity, feel safe and welcome in our schools and in our community,” they said in their joint statement.

Pinsker said the district has a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for staff and is encouraging students to get vaccinations, but said these guidelines do not appear to be related to the leaflets.

Jordanna Gessler, vice president of education at exhibitions at the Holocaust Museum LA, said the leaflets associate anti-vaccination campaigners with Jews.

“And it’s a very old anti-Semitic trope that Jews spread diseases that the Nazis immortalized,” Gessler said in an email. “It goes back to the Middle Ages, when Jews were held responsible for the black plague.”

Last month, law enforcement officials said leaflets containing anti-Semitic theories about the COVID-19 pandemic were found in driveways and front gardens of several neighborhoods in Pasadena and Beverly Hills.

The flyer “contains propaganda hate speech related to the COVID pandemic and the Jewish people,” said Beverly Hills police in a statement. More than 200 leaflets were collected.

The leaflets mentioned a “COVID agenda,” naming several federal health and corporate officials while also stating that they were Jewish. “Every single aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish,” read the leaflets.

Similar leaflets were distributed in other parts of the country, including Texas and North Carolina.

Beth Kean, the museum’s manager, called the posters found in Santa Monica “the work of haters”.

“Everyone not just in Santa Monica but all of Los Angeles and frankly the world should be outraged and offended by such ignorant, insidious and malicious lies created by whoever created these posters,” Kean said in one Explanation.

Kean said the museum is trying to educate people about “how such actions resulted in the deaths of millions by Nazi Germany.”

She added that she was awaiting a police investigation.

Lt. Rudy Flores, spokesman for the Santa Monica Police Department, said police had been dispatched to the respective schools to gather information.

Flores said the investigation is still in the early stages and has not yet been identified as a possible hate incident.

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