PALMETTO BAY (CBS4) – In Palmetto Bay’s Mangowood neighborhood, some folks got up Wednesday to find flyers in their driveways featuring a swastika, men in Nazi uniforms, and websites promoting a neo-Nazi group.
Joyce Langley, who flies an American flag in her yard, got one of the flyers.
“It’s scary. It’s sad and scary. We all need to get a life here and enjoy America,” Langley said.
The flyers include web addresses for sites that feature photos of the group’s hero, Adolf Hitler, and slogans promoting racial purity. One site includes the number “88” – eight being the eighth letter of the alphabet, “H” – hence, “Heil Hitler” – a code among neo-Nazi groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League of Florida.
“We have a tight community here, and when some of the people see something of a suspicious – or in this case objectionable – nature it’s their first reflex to call the police,” said Palmetto Bay spokesperson Bill Kress.
Seven residents filed police reports after finding the flyers in their driveways. One who called police asked that we not use his name.
“These groups should not exist. These kinds of beliefs are archaic,” the resident said. “There’s no place for it. We’ve moved way beyond these types of beliefs.”
The propaganda was delivered in the dark of night, the neo-Nazis depositing the flyers in driveways, putting rocks on them to keep the wind from blowing them away.
Some recipients called the anonymous messengers cowards.
“I’m a very firm, conservative person,” said Russell Langley. “If you’ve got to voice something, you should do it out in the open.”
Because the flyers contain no specific threat, police said the only crime that may have been committed is littering.
Palmetto Bay policing unit commander, Lt. Gregory Truitt, said organizations have the right to express their beliefs, no matter how objectionable some might find the beliefs to be.
Art Teitelbaum, former director of the Anti-Defamation League of Florida, helped craft hate crime laws in Florida and agreed that the first amendment protects even the most vile speech.
“What we have here is garbage in its broadest and most profound sense,” Teitelbaum told CBS4 News.
Teitelbaum said his greatest concern is the potential for escalation.
“These people and like-minded people have the possibility of committing more serious crimes and there’s a message that should be delivered to them: Florida has the toughest hate crimes laws in the country,” Teitelbaum said.
If someone is attacked or threatened for reasons having to do with their race or religion, or an institution like a church or synagogue defaced with hate symbols, the perpetrators can face severe penalties.
“Law enforcement will come down on them,” Teitelbaum said. “We have a long record in Florida of these people being hammered when they commit crimes.”