“People are scared,” declared Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich during Wednesday night’s Prevention of Hate Crimes in Montgomery County webinar.
The event was organized following incidents in June in Kemp Mill and Garrett Park in which Nazi, white supremacist and antisemitic flyers were posted. These flyers were connected with national extremist organizations, according to Meredith Weisel, regional director of the ADL in Washington, D.C.
The flyers and graffiti used to be done anonymously but now have websites and names of hate groups on them and include “an element of violence,” Elrich said. “I find it very concerning,” he said, adding, “You realize it is really wearing on people.”
Next week, Councilmember Andrew Friedson is expected to introduce a resolution condemning antisemitism, Elrich said.
Council President Gabe Albornoz condemned violence and hate messaging against any group or religion and praised the county and faith leaders here who instantly stand together when one group is targeted.
He told the 60 people attending the virtual meeting that the county spends hundreds of thousands of dollars so houses of worship can purchase security cameras and other equipment and also be trained on how to deal with these situations.
“As horrible as things are, and they are horrible, there is so much more good in the world,” Albornoz declared.
Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones urged residents to call the non-emergency police number whenever they see a hate flyer, graffiti or similar incidents. “You all are the eyes and the ears of the community,” he said. “We take race bias incidents, hate crimes, very seriously across the board.”
Weisel agreed, noting, “All forms of hate are equally dangerous.” It is important to report all incidents, even if the flyer doesn’t scare the receiver, she said. ADL looks for patterns and keeps track of the groups that distribute them.
Her organization was able to determine the group that distributed the flyers in Garrett Park, she said. However, she noted, “Any one of us can go to their website and just print out a flyer,” so it may not have come from someone attached to the group.
“It’s deeply disturbing what we are seeing,” she said. “We know this has a ripple effect throughout every community.”
Noted Jewish Community Relations Council Executive Director Ron Halber, “Montgomery County is not an island that is immune to these threats, heightened language.” He stressed, “Any kind of bigotry is equally disgusting and reprehensible, and we won’t stand for it.”
Montgomery County Public School teachers are trained to understand antisemitism and bias in ADL’s program, No Place for Hate. People are taught how to be an upstander, not a bystander, she said.