Antisemitism is being spread in Cassville, Missouri. In the last two weeks, sandwich baggies filled with corn to weigh them down have also included an antisemitic flyer, containing headlines claiming “Every single aspect of the” slave trade, mass immigration, media, COVID-19, LGBTQ+ movement and gun control “is Jewish.”
The advocacy organization fighting antisemitism – StopAntisemitism – has attributed the antisemitic flyers to the Goyim Defense League (GDL). The league travels the country distributing these hateful flyers targeting Jewish communities.
Bill Shiveley, Cassville mayor, was among the first to report seeing the flyers on Sept. 4, picking up 10-12 near his home on the north end of Cassville, along County Farm, Carroll and Billy streets.
“When I saw it for the first time, I asked myself, ‘What kind of propaganda is this?’” he said. “It upset me to tell you the truth.”
Donnie Privett, interim chief at the Cassville Police Department, said police have received two official reports of flyers found in Cassville, but he has seen more than just those two being posted on social media.
“We have two reports, but on social media, I have seen a lot more; they just aren’t all reported to the PD,” he said. “The flyers are not threatening. They are full of hate speech, but there are no threats.”
One social media report claimed the flyer may have caused skin irritation when handled, but whether that was caused directly by the flyer is uncertain.
“We have not sent any to the crime lab, but if it causes a prolonged injury, they may test it,” Privett said. “With the question of the skin irritant and not knowing the cause of that person’s rash, we advise not to touch the flyers if you see them. Call dispatch and have an officer come pick it up. Definitely do not handle it without gloves on.
“If it is inside city limits, we will generate a case report, and if it looks like something we can test, we will see what we can get.”
The flyers, printed on letter size paper, say they were “distributed randomly without malicious intent” and contain images of influential individuals with the Star of David on their foreheads, Bible verses, corporate logos, a misrepresented quote by President Joe Biden and QR codes that direct a scanner to the website of a group identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
A week after Shiveley picked up flyers, another area of Cassville was impacted. On Sept. 11, flyers were distributed throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the Cassville school district campus, from the high school and south to Seventh Street by the Cassville City Park. Shiveley said flyers he picked up were mostly at the edges of driveways and in the street, and flyers distributed the week after were placed in yards, typically by a mailbox.
“I was upset at the idea of what it was trying to promote,” Shiveley said. “I don’t think it’s right. It was pretty early in the morning when I saw mine, and then I saw another and another, so I picked them up, and when I got back to my house, I opened one up. The print quality was very bad, so bad I couldn’t read most of it. I was upset for propaganda like that to be put out and that it was thrown in my driveway.”
Shiveley said he understands and respects the individual’s right to free speech, but after throwing the flyers away, he had another question.
“Do they have the right to throw those in my yard?” he said.
According to Privett, the answer is no.
“At the very bare minimum, it’s littering,” he said. “If there is something in there to cause skin irritation and we can prove it was put there on purpose, that could be fourth-degree or third-degree assault. If it causes serious injury, which is open to interpretation, it could be a felony. We usually call it a serious injury if someone goes to the emergency room or requires an ambulance.”
Privett said police are working to track down the individual responsible for distributing the flyers, searching for a black four-door Ford truck.
“If we see a truck that matches that description, we will investigate,” he said. “We’d like to have people report it when they see it if they see it, not hours later.”
Shiveley said he has taken calls from concerned residents worried about handling the flyers should there be any contamination. The group responsible for distributing the propaganda is vast, with reports of flyers being circulated in Georgia, North Carolina, California, New York, Wisconsin, Florida, Tennessee and more in 2023.
“They were in Butterfield about a month or more ago,” Privett said. “One was brought to me, and I handled it, but I did not open it and touch the flyer. At that time, I told him to throw it away. I think it’s a big group using a small group or person to get their message out, but it has the potential to hurt someone in more ways than one.”
Shiveley said though he is against the message, he did find one use for the dozen bags he collected.
“I took all the corn and put it in one bag, then gave it to a neighbor to feed to his chickens.”