Antisemitic flyers that have appeared in neighborhoods throughout Tuolumne County in recent weeks are drawing condemnation from residents, as well as the attention of local law enforcement agencies.
The flyers typically are found in plastic bags with rice inside to weigh them down and feature statements blaming Jewish people for gun control, mass immigration, abortion, and the “COVID agenda,” among other things.
“The motivation is so hateful and misinformed, historically inaccurate, and just rooted in ignorance, and that always concerns me,” said Lori Slicton, whose father’s neighborhood on Mount Brow Road in Sonora was peppered with the flyers on May 21. “Any time we dehumanize people, it tends to cause violence, and I’m fundamentally opposed to that.”
There have been at least six confirmed reports to the Sonora Police Department dating back to May 18 of antisemitic flyers in bags being found outside homes on North Arbona Circle, Morning Star Court, West Jackson Street, West Sunset Drive, Elk Drive, and North Stewart Street.
The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office has also received reports over the past month of the flyers being found on residential streets in Columbia, Tuolumne and the unincorporated area of Sonora.
Slicton, who primarily lives in Alameda and has a residence in Sonora, said she called the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office about the flyers in her father’s neighborhood and described the deputy who spoke to her as “very supportive and concerned.”
“It’s important to draw attention to it right away and be clear that we’re not going to tolerate this kind of activity in our community,” Slicton said.
Laurie Padgett, of Tuolumne, said she found one of the flyers in the front yard of her home on May 6 and soon after learned many of her neighbors had received them, as well.
Padgett said she has always felt safe since moving to the township of Tuolumne from Lake County seven years ago, but finding the flyer in her yard made her feel targeted even though she’s not Jewish.
“To come out and see something like that in front of your house, you think, ‘Who did this and is this directed at me?’ “ she said. “Then finding that it was more widespread, at least you don’t feel like it’s targeted at me, should I be watching over my shoulder … but it was just disappointing to see that kind of thinking in this little town.”
There are widespread reports of the same flyers being found in areas throughout California and the United States over the past year-plus.
The flyers appear to be produced by a recognized antisemitic hate group known as the Goyim Defense League (GDL) that was reportedly founded by a former Sonoma County man , Jon Minadeo, who has since moved to Florida. NGO StopAntisemitism has been following Minadeo and the GDL’s movements nationwide.
Jewish organizations across the Bay Area have been forced to increase security measures due to a recent rise in antisemitic threats, including instances of the same flyers, according to the Marin Independent-Journal.
A representative for a local Jewish organization that covers Tuolumne, Calaveras and Amador counties, who spoke under the condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation or harassment, said they stopped publicizing locations of their upcoming events and have hired security guards to be at them in recent years.
The representative had only heard of one instance of the antisemitic flyers being found recently in Calaveras County and said they currently don’t consider it to be an immediate threat, though they believe there should be public awareness about the issue.
“The thing about antisemitism and Nazis is you have to confront them,” the representative said. “History says you can’t be complacent.”