By Miriam Raftery
December 5, 2023 (La Mesa) -- A representative from District Attorney Summer Stephan's office and the La Mesa Police Dept. invite community members to a hate crimes forum with Q&A session on Dec.14 at 5:30 p.m. at the La Mesa Police Dept., 8085 University Ave., La Mesa.
The forum comes on the heels of anti-Semitic flyers repeatedly disseminated in La Mesa and the nearby San Diego communities of Del Cerro, San Carlos and Allied Gardens in recent months, among other neighborhoods targeted. Some flyers blamed Jews for 9-11 attacks, among other false claims.
“Their goal is creating fear and anxiety in our communities,” Fabienne Perlov, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League’s San Diego chapter told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The flyers were distributed by the Goyim Defense League, a white supremacist group, according to Liora Rez, executive director of the nonprofit Stop Antisemitism. The flyers first appeared locally around June. It has continued since Hamas slaughtered Israelis at a kibbutz and took hundreds hostage, triggering Israeli attacks on Gaza and a rise in anti-Semitism worldwide.
In the city of San Diego, Councilman Raul Campillo plans to introduce an ordinance that would create a new crime, hate littering, that would be less serious than violent hate crimes but enable communities to ban distribution of flyers that could incite violence against any specific group, such as Jews, Muslims, Asians, or the LGBTQ community, for example.
Carrie Shah, policy staffer for Councilman Campillo, says the draft ordinance is currently being vetted by the City Attorney to assure that it can withstand any constitutional challenge on First Amendment/free speech grounds. Campillo also wants to address the issue more broadly to assure that the city creates a safe space for victims to go and get help or resources, and to address reasons behind the surge in hate flyers.
“This is his number one policy priority,” she says of Councilman Campillo, adding that the ordinance could come before the San Diego City Council within a week or two after being heard first in committee in January or February. If approved, a person found guilty of distributing hate flyers aimed at inciting violence could spend up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
La Mesa Councilman Jack Shu told ECM in a phone interview today, “I haven’t heard of this type of ordinance before, but it’s something I’d be interested in looking into. An ordinance regarding hate literature may be helpful...I hope we can also work on preventative measures with regard to hate.”
He voiced concern over hate targeting both recent immigrants and those of foreign ancestry who have been in the U.S. for generations, such as Chinese-Americans targeted during the COVID-19 pandemic which some blamed on China, where it originated.
He likens preventative actions, such as community forums and educational efforts, as addressing hate from a public health perspective instead of waiting for a crime to occur.
“We can reduce hate if we have a conscious effort to do so,” he said, urging all concerned to attend the hate crimes forum on Dec. 14.”When you team up, you win.”