Pennsylvania, New Jersey see record increase in hate propaganda, attacks 

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Shira Goodman knows how hate groups operate. She tracks the activity through her work as regional director with the Anti-Defamation League's Pennsylvania office.

"When somebody sees flyers talking about white heritage, European heritage, you don't belong here; that's very distressing," she said.

The group had been keeping track of hate propaganda for the past five years. They say 2020 was the highest year ever for white supremacy propaganda distribution in Pennsylvania. The ADL documented 238 incidents in the state last year.

"These are incidents where a white supremacist group will leave flyers on cars, or at a house of worship, or will put stickers on poles," she said, adding that the offensive messages may have increased because they're often considered free speech.



"The reason this activity is so prevalent is that it's very low risk," Goodman said. "It's generally going to be a protected First Amendment activity unless it's something that goes into harassment and trespassing or vandalism."

The Anti-Defamation League says the distribution of materials and graffiti from hate groups in Pennsylvania rose from nearly nothing in 2016 to 238 in 2020. Many of the incidents were in Eastern Pennsylvania including Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs.

"We've been getting calls even in the recent weeks from Bryn Mawr and the Lehigh Valley," said Goodman.

Sadly, it doesn't stop with propaganda. New Jersey has had more racially biased attacks than ever. The disturbing trend has caused New Jersey to take action, which includes efforts by the New Jersey Uniform Crime Reporting System.

"The attorney general stated that we're going to start releasing that data monthly, and that's a big shift," said Governor Phil Murphy.

According to New Jersey State Police, there were 1,441 reports of biased attacks and hate crimes in 2020. That's a 45% increase from 2019. Attacks against Blacks rose 84%; attacks against Asians rose 74%.

"It's quite troubling. We've done a lot to push back on that from law enforcement to the youth bias task force," said Murphy.

The groups behind the messages of hate aren't always easy to spot. Goodman said they hiding behind words like "heritage" or "patriot."

"Sometimes you have to look closely (at the propaganda) to see what this is really about," she said. "These words might seem innocuous, but when you take a little deeper and look on the website, it's about white supremacy."

Goodman encourages anyone who sees propaganda to report it to the ADL and to the police.

"Don't just crumple it up and feel ashamed or alone or isolated," she said.

Governor Murphy also encouraged people who witness hate crimes to speak up.

"Folks have to have the courage to stand up and be counted," he said.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.