Hempstead officials said they are increasing the town's public safety patrols near synagogues after reports from community members that antisemitic flyers were distributed in the town late Friday or early Saturday.
Authorities are “fairly confident” the leaflets were distributed by the same group that distributed hate-filled flyers last month in Rockville Centre, Oceanside and Long Beach, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said Sunday. Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said the language on the flyers “echoes the same anti-Semitic tone from about a month ago."
“It really is disgusting,” Clavin said. “It turns your stomach.”
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder vowed last month to arrest those responsible for the flyers distributed in Rockville Centre, Oceanside and Long Beach. But experts on free speech law told Newsday that the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment almost certainly protects the right to distribute the material — no matter how hateful or vile the content.
Sunday evening, Ryder released a statement saying: "The Nassau County Police Department is currently investigating the distribution of these flyers in conjunction with the Freeport Police Department." Freeport police declined to comment.
Blakeman and Clavin said the flyers appear to be a response to officials’ anger and outrage after similar leaflets were distributed in July. The most recent leaflets said that hate speech is protected by free speech protection.
Blakeman said authorities will review license plate readers and video from residences and businesses to determine if the group had violated any laws. Clavin said those who distributed the antisemitic flyers could be charged with trespassing or other crimes and asked residents who may have video of the responsible parties to share it with law enforcement.
“It is a small group and we are monitoring them,” Blakeman said. “If they cross the line they will feel the full brunt of the law.”
The flyers were distributed during the Jewish Sabbath, after sundown on Friday, the officials said, and were most likely delivered under darkness of night. Some residents found the flyers on Friday night after returning home from religious services, Clavin said.
“We will not tolerate this,” Clavin said. “We are increasing security and we are standing up to anti-Semitism. We are doubling down on these cowards.”
Rabbi S. Zalman Wolowik of the Chabad of the Five Towns told Newsday he learned about the flyers from members of his congregation who had received them. He said he has discussed the issue with law-enforcement agencies but declined to discuss what additional security measures the Chabad of the Five Towns is taking.
“Whenever we encounter such behavior, it is a reminder to all of us that where there is darkness, we have to combat it with goodness and light,” Wolowik said.