As she made her way down her driveway in Sparks Glencoe to wait for her son to be dropped off from school last week, Lauren Durfey spotted a Ziploc bag.
It was colorful, she noticed. She picked it up and looked closer, and saw a flyer displaying antisemitic propaganda inside, accompanied by something that looked like animal food.
“I was shocked and disgusted to see something like that,” Durfey said.
But she was glad she’d spotted it before her son, who stepped off the bus just minutes later. When the 7-year-old asked Durfey what it was, she told him it was trash.
“It’s just disturbing to have something hit that close to home where my son could have seen it and read it,” she said. “And that’s the last thing I want.”
Over the last few months, other residents in areas of north Baltimore County — and more recently, parts of the city — have encountered antisemitic, white supremacist or anti-LGBTQ+ flyers.
Since January, Baltimore County Police have received at least eight reports related to antisemitic propaganda, a spokesperson said. The Anti-Defamation League has received around six reports since late May of antisemitic flyers in areas of the county including Timonium, Sparks, Baldwin and Monkton, according to Meredith Weisel, regional director of the ADL’s D.C. office, which oversees Maryland, Virginia, D.C. and North Carolina.
The flyers were put in Ziploc bags, and Weisel said the group that is believed to have distributed them often adds corn, rocks, pebbles or anything heavy enough to weigh them down.
Recently, flyers with anti-LGBTQ+ messages have also turned up in Baltimore City. On Wednesday morning, Baltimore Police responded to the 6200 block of Sycamore Road in Cedarcroft for “papers scattered throughout the neighborhood” that were linked to a hate group, a spokesperson said.
The incident is being investigated as a hate crime, according to the spokesperson.
Lee Gedansky, who lives in Lake Evesham, said he made a separate 311 request Wednesday after encountering the flyers from a white supremacist group during a morning walk.
Gedansky, 56, saw the flyers soon after he turned onto Lake Avenue, he said. They were near houses on both sides of the street, on driveways, sidewalks and lawns. They were in baggies and weighed down by gravel. Gedansky also noticed that every house he saw that hung a Pride flag had received one, he said.
Gedansky and the neighbor he was walking with picked up around eight of the baggies, he said, and another neighbor collected 37 more.
“Let’s kill the message,” Gedansky initially thought, inclined to not give the group a voice. Though, he also questioned if residents should be aware that someone did this in their neighborhood.
A flyer from the white nationalist group Patriot Front that plastered the 41st Street overpass was taken down by the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, the agency wrote in a tweet on Thursday.
“There is no room for white supremacy in Baltimore,” the department wrote.
Reported incidents of white supremacist propaganda have increased in Maryland and reached an all-time high in 2022, according to Weisel. The state had about 169 reported incidents last year, such as flyers, stickers and graffiti, she said.
Such incidents have also increased nationwide in recent years, according to data from the ADL’s Center on Extremism. Three groups — Patriot Front, Goyim Defense League and White Lives Matter — are believed to be responsible for over 90% of the incidents, according to ADL.
All of the incidents reported to ADL in Baltimore County since May are also believed to be tied to Goyim Defense League, Weisel said. The group is a “loose network of individuals” connected by antisemitism, and it has thousands of online followers. Its goal is to spread antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories, and ultimately, to expel Jews from America, according an informational page on ADL’s website.
Goyim Defense League flyers often blame Jewish people “for a variety of different perceived social grievances,” Weisel said. The flyer that Durfey received claimed Disney was run entirely by Jews and the entertainment company is grooming children.
The flyers on Lake Avenue appear to have been spread by a different group. Each flyer that Gedansky collected broadcast the group’s name in capital letters: The Loyal White Knights. It is one of the largest Ku Klux Klan groups in the country and follows “a version of traditional Klan ideology infused with neo-Nazi beliefs,” according to an ADL information page.
The flyers Gedansky retrieved had anti-Pride messages.
Weisel said that “white supremacist flyering is becoming an endemic in the United States.”
“It is causing fear,” she added. “It causes people to feel unsafe in their own environments, and to realize that there’s somebody out there who holds these hateful beliefs.”
It’s hard to say why the groups may have targeted certain areas and not others, according to Weisel.
Since the flyers began popping up, at least two local politicians have spoken out against them.
“This nakedly antisemitic act cannot stand, and as a community, we are not silent when some members of our community are targeted for hate,” wrote Baltimore County Councilman Wade Kach in a social media post.
Kach, a Republican who represents District 3, which includes nearly all of the northernmost communities in the county, also wrote he is in close contact with police as they investigate.
Del. Michele Guyton, a Democrat who represents District 42B, covering an area that stretches from Lutherville to Phoenix, released a letter that informed people of the flyers, which she wrote pose “a threat to our communities and our values.”
“This literature is filled with disgusting information aimed at people of different religions, races, and sexual orientations,” she wrote, strongly advising people to keep them away from children.
Guyton asked people with cameras to review their footage to see if it had captured a person leaving the flyers.
Some residents who received flyers shared photos on social media, where many expressed their disgust and anger at the propaganda. Durfey said the flyer grossed her out, so she didn’t look at it for too long.
She thinks the flyer was probably placed randomly on her driveway, but knew it was distributed with the intent of spreading fear and lies, she said.
“I just was really appalled and saddened to see that that’s still happening,” she said.
Gedansky said the flyers troubled him, and he was somewhat in disbelief that they were in his area.
But he said he won’t give in to fear or outrage, which he believes hate groups are seeking.
“I don’t give them credibility,” he said.