White supremacist propaganda incidents in DC area doubled in 2020, ADL says

Badge of the Loyal White Knights (Courtesy of ADL)

On May 25, 2020, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan distributed anti-Semitic and racist propaganda in Frederick.

Members of the Loyal White Knights follow a version of traditional Klan ideology mixed with neo-Nazi beliefs. The flyers they passed out belittled COVID-19, calling Jews “the real plague.” It also read, “tolerate this truth — race is much more important than skin color.”

It was one of many anti-Semitic and white supremacist propaganda incidents in greater Washington and throughout the country last year. According to ADL, there was “a near-doubling of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ fliers, stickers, banners and posters.”

ADL recorded 5,125 cases — averaging almost 14 each day — in 2020 compared to 2,724 during 2019. ADL listed 2020 as the year with the highest number of white supremacist propaganda incidents it ever recorded.

During 2020, there were 163 incidents of white supremacist propaganda in Maryland, 30 in Washington and 249 in Virginia. In Virginia, hate flyers were reported in most of the communities surrounding Washington.

The Texas-based Patriot Front, which ADL identified as a white supremacist group whose members say their ancestors conquered America first and bequeathed it just to them, distributed flyers throughout the area. Between April and November 2020, that group’s flyers appeared in Germantown, Gaithersburg, Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Silver Spring.

According to ADL, the Patriot Front “espouses racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance under the guise of preserving the ‘ethnic and cultural origins’ of their European ancestors.”

The Patriot Front is known for its hatred of Jews and has placed stickers reading, “The Goyim Know,” which ADL explained refers to “an anti-Semitic trope about Jews trying to keep non-Jews ‘in the dark’ about their plans for world domination.”

Not all the anti-Semitic incidents found in the area specifically were tied to a particular group. ADL reported a swastika carved into a tree at Sligo Creek Stream Valley Park in Silver Spring in February. In March, Tikvat Israel Congregation in Rockville was defaced with a swastika and messages including “Hitler was right” and “Kill them all.”

That same month, Oseh Shalom in Laurel was conducting a Shabbat service on Zoom when people interrupted by yelling and posting comments in the chat feature that read, “Heil Hitler” and “filthy Jews.”

Also in March, a Jewish organization in Washington was holding an educational session via Zoom when it was interrupted by sex noises and someone saying, “I support white supremacy. F** all the Jews.” In January, a synagogue in the District received a letter alleging that modern-day Jews are fake and part of the “synagogue of Satan.”

ADL does not release the names of the synagogues and organizations because they are private, said Meredith R. Weisel, ADL senior associate regional director.

According to ADL, the Washington region, which includes the District, Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina, accounts for 12.4 percent of the national incidents in 2020. Virginia ranked seventh and Maryland 10th in the overall number of incidents.

In the District, the number of incidents reported increased from 19 in 2019 to 30 in 2020. In Maryland, the number spiked from 59 in 2019 to 163 last year, and in Virginia, the number of incidents increased from 138 to 249.

The largest white supremacist event in the country during 2020 involved some 100 Patriot Front members in a February flash demonstration on the National Mall.

“The 2020 data in the D.C. region shows a huge increase from the previous year where white supremacist propaganda reports nearly doubled. This is an alarming number of incidents, which overwhelmingly features veiled white supremacist language with a patriotic slant that is used to bolster recruitment efforts while targeting minority groups including the Jewish, Black, Muslim and LGBTQ+ communities, as well as non-white immigrants,” said Doron F. Ezickson, vice president of the Mid-Atlantic/MidWest region of the ADL.

“Propaganda gives white supremacists the ability to maximize media and online attention, while limiting the risk of individual exposure, negative media coverage, arrests and public backlash that often accompanies more public events,” he said.

He pointed out that propaganda is not always covered by hate crime statutes as they often are considered constitutionally protected speech.

ADL also tracked anti-Semitic language or incidents targeted at Jewish institutions, noting a 68 percent increase in 2020 as compared to 2019.

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