Kenosha man charged for littering after distributing anti-Semitic flyers

NOW: Kenosha man charged for littering after distributing anti-Semitic flyers

KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A 56-year-old Kenosha man has been fined over $4,000 after police say he was responsible for distributing anti-Semitic flyers throughout the community earlier this year.

A press release from the Kenosha Police Department explains officers began investigating the distribution of the flyers in December 2021. The flyers were showing up on vehicle windshields, driveways and walkways.

According to the department, the flyers were technically a form of free speech, protected by the First Amendment. Despite this, the department acknowledged many members in the community were concerned about the materials being distributed and questioned if it could be considered hate speech. According to the department, the distribution did not.

Police continued to investigate the distribution of the flyers, and on Aug. 10, the 56-year-old man received 23 $187 citations for violations of Kenosha City ordinance 11.02U; Littering -- Throw, place or deposit any paper, glass, bottle, cans, containers, grass clippings, rubbish, waste, filth or other debris upon private property without consent of the owner or occupant, or upon the streets, alleys, highways, sidewalks, parks, or beaches, or into any pond, stream, river or lake

"We're very pleased that they found the perpetrator of these crimes," said Rabbi Dena Feingold of Bethel Hillel Temple. "It's been very disturbing to our whole community, not just to the Jewish community."

Rabbi Feingold says the flyers, some of which were received by members of her congregation, did not strictly target Jewish homes.

"It was an effort, really, to sell the neighborhoods and sell the people in the communities on these horrible lies and anti-Semitic tropes that are unfortunately quite familiar to the Jewish community for quite some time," Rabbi Feingold said. "It was very, very disturbing."

The Rabbi says there was a silver lining to come from the incidents. Members of the faith-based community have joined together to create a rapid response team to respond when similar incidents happen. Plans for the team were finalized on Wednesday.

"We now have a rapid response team in place of our CUSH, which is Congregations United to Serve Humanity," Rabbi Feingold explained. "Our faith based community organizing group put together a rapid response team, so when these events happen again, we have people to call who will go to those neighborhoods and pick up the flyers. We have to support each other when things like this happen."

Miryam Rosenzweig is the CEO of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. She says in order to curb anti-Semitism, it's important that the community speaks up when noticing it.

"We encourage anybody who sees anything to report it," Rosenzweig said. "That is the most important thing we can do, is to track it, be able to see it and share it so that we can see these patterns so we can work together with law enforcement. It's important for us as a society to recognize that these expressions are getting more and more."

According to Rosenzweig, anti-Semitism in Wisconsin is up by 450-percent since 2015.

Rabbi Feingold admits she wishes more could be done than just littering citations for the man responsible for distributing the flyers in Kenosha. She's grateful, however, for the action that has been taken, and hopeful the community will work together to stop all forms of discrimination.

"We've learned that anti-Semitism and racism are very connected," Rabbi Feingold said. "We have to work together when any group in our community is targeted for any purpose. We need to all come together."

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