Gaines Township, MI – Katie Harrington was in the kitchen baking Sunday afternoon when she overheard her six-year-old son and the neighbor boy who’d stopped by to play.
“I heard (the words) ‘shooting people,’ and booked it over to them and grabbed the paper,” recalled Harrington, who quickly realized her son’s friend had brought in a flyer that had been left on the Harrington’s driveway.
“The boys were trying to decipher what it was and had made up a story based on the imagery. Makes me even more upset, sad that these poor kids had access to that material,” lamented Harrington, who said both children are in first grade.
The flyers were filled with antisemitic hate speech, blaming Jewish people for everything from the war in Ukraine to the attacks on the World Trade Center.
It talked about Jews being responsible for 9/11,” said Harrington. “It made me (get) goosebumps all over and just this really disgusting feeling … I want nothing to do with any of that sentiment. Any of these conspiracy theories.”
The flyers were packaged in zip-close baggies that had been weighted down with seeds, ostensibly to keep them from flying away.
Target 8 found the flyers on driveways in at least two Caledonia-area subdivisions near 68th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue.
A Wyoming resident also reported flyers littering driveways in Chateau Estates off Burlingame Avenue.
A Ring doorbell camera in a subdivision off 76th Street captured the baggies being flung onto driveways around 1:30 Sunday afternoon from a beige Dodge Caravan as it drove through Gaines Township subdivisions, including Crystal Springs.
One flyer, there were several versions, had the anti-Biden chant, ‘let’s go Brandon’ in bold-face as the headline and claimed “every single aspect of the Biden administration is Jewish.”
The flyers pushed readers to the website of a group called Goyim Defense League, which is known nationwide by agencies that monitor hate groups.
“This group is a loose network of individuals, connected by their virulent antisemitism,” said Carolyn Normandin, regional director with the Anti-Defamation League in Michigan. “It includes five or six primary organizers and many, many supporters. Thousands of online followers. This group operates a video platform that streams antisemitic content. Really, the only reason that they’re in existence is just to hassle and harass the Jewish community.”
Normandin said the organization’s most “zealous and visible actors” began activities in Arizona, California and Florida before moving on to New York, South Carolina and Texas.
She said ADL first noted the group’s presence in Michigan in Spring 2022.
She described the network as “very, very active” in the Great Lake state.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s, Normandin said the organization, whose name she will not use, drove Michigan highways and dropped flyers at gas pumps.
“I don’t mention their name on purpose because I’m not going to be part of that propaganda machine,” explained Normandin.
“These antisemitic flyers blame the Jewish community for everything, starting COVID, owning banks, starting every major ill that the world has seen,” said Normandin. “It’s like an insidious cancer that’s being pushed on to people.”
Normandin said the group’s stunts include hanging offensive banners from highway overpasses and targeting Jews on the street.
“They pull people’s head coverings off, or go up to their cars and ask ridiculous questions just to harass people,” she said.
Normandin said the country’s political divide and widespread dependence on social media has helped the group increase its profile.
“What we’ve seen in the last several years is a rise in antisemitism, and so this group in particular is trying to foment antisemitism through conspiracy theory, and that’s what concerns me the most,” explained Normandin.
“The most important thing, ‘don’t believe this garbage,’” implored Normandin. “Nobody that I know, that really has something great to say, is using a Ziploc baggie filled with rice or beans and a little sheet of paper to disseminate that message.”