KENOSHA, Wis. – Kenosha police slapped a man with a $4,300 fine after they said he posted anti-Semitic flyers on car windshields, driveways and walkways.
But these quotes are not specific to anti-Semitism. The 23 citations given to the 56-year-old Kenosha man were for violating the city’s ordinance 11.02U.
It is for littering.
Here’s how it’s described: “Throwing, placing or depositing any paper, glass, bottles, cans, containers, grass clippings, garbage, waste, trash or other debris on private property without without the consent of the owner or occupant in or on a street, alley, highway, sidewalk, park or beach, or into any pond, stream, river or lake.”
Each citation will result in a $187 penalty, so that’s a total of $4,301. The man – who was not named by police in a statement on Friday – can fight the charges in city court.
Kenosha Police explained in the statement that officers began an investigation into the alleged anti-Semetic leaflets in December 2021.
The leaflets are technically a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment, police said. But residents expressed their concerns and even asked if the distribution “qualifies as a hate crime.”
“Under WI § 939,645, under WI § 939,645, including crimes against certain persons or property,” the police replied. “Recognizing the fear and concern surrounding leaflet distribution, the KPD is committed to continuing to investigate, which we did.”
On Thursday, police issued citations to the man. They did not say what changed from December to August.
The FBI defines a hate crime as “a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by the offender’s prejudice against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or sexual orientation.” education, ethnicity, sex or gender identity”.
US Department of Justice report an average of 250,000 hate crimes were committed annually between 2004 and 2015 in the United States. But the vast majority of crimes have not been reported to law enforcement.
Some in the community say the litter fee is not strict enough.
Kenosha resident Marilyn Propp picked up an anti-Semitic flyer months ago and panic struck.
“The leaflets have their roots in a long history of accusing Jews of anything and everything to fuel hatred, and hatred leads to violence, and that is justifiable,” she said. be afraid.
As a Jewish woman, she said she is still horrified and is now furious to learn that the man the police believe is responsible for placing these fliers throughout the community is being fined for the crime of littering, instead of the crime of hate.
Rabbi Dena Feingold of the Beth Hillel Temple said she knew all along that the man would be arrested for littering. She said she was “delighted” that police caught the person responsible for the “disruptive” act and understood why this was not charged as a hate crime.
“There is a First Amendment that protects people from saying horrible things,” Feingold said.
TMJ4’s Ryan Jenkins spoke with Kenosha district attorney John Ward, who offered his expert views on the law.
“The problem is you have a very fine line between the words they protect and the behavior they want to punish,” says Ward.
He says it all comes down to motivation.
“Hate crimes don’t punish thoughts or words. It punishes the act of actually committing the crime,” he said.
Meanwhile, Feingold said the Jewish community is now coming together to prevent more hatred in the future. They have set up a quick response team that will respond and collect flyers if more are distributed.
However, Propp thinks a tougher response is needed from the police and community leaders.
“I have distant cousins killed in the Holocaust. This is not a simple matter. This is not littering. This is a hate crime,” she said.
This early year, NBC News reported anti-epidemic leaflets have been found in at least three US cities: Denver, San Francisco, and Miami. Now, similar leaflets have been found outside Kenosha’s homes at least twice.
Marilyn Propp moved from Chicago to Kenosha about 5 years ago. She was walking to a friend’s house in February when she saw a bag full of rice and a piece of paper on the sidewalk.
“I picked it up and opened it and it was this horrible wallpaper, this horrible piece of paper that blamed the Jews for Covid. List all the Jews in the government behind the negative. this plot and I just feel cold inside,” said Propp.
She said she called Rabbi and Beth Hillel temple. She was told that they had heard of many other people in the community finding the notes and were collecting them to give to the police.
Propp says that since moving to Kenosha, she has always felt safe in the community, but finding the anti-epidemic message scared her.
“I felt really targeted and really scared and really angry. Wondering why, why are these people targeting normal, normal people,” Propp said. “I lost distant cousins in the Holocaust. My whole family is Jewish.”
Over the weekend, Propp said she’s seen many Kenosha community members post on the NextDoor app about finding more notes. Those found in the past few days have claimed to be Jewish in the media.
Propp said it’s shocking to hear these messages are being spread in a smaller city like Kenosha.
“To find it was a really scary intrusion to our lives here,” she said. “That you will be the target of hate, that doesn’t make sense. It’s shocking. This is not 1940’s Germany.”
This early year, Milwaukee Jewish Federation releases a report on anti-Semitism in Wisconsin. While the overall anti-epidemic fell slightly, it did see an increase in cases at Wisconsin schools.
Kenosha police said on Tuesday they had 12 different ‘distributions’, mostly located in the southeast. The fliers all contained anti-Semitic content and were nearly identical across all 12 distributions, police said.
“That’s part of what we are trying to find out as well as who is responsible. We have collected all the leaflets and continue to investigate,” police said in an email.