When Marilyn Kraut returned home from walking her dog Thursday afternoon she noticed an unfamiliar sight on her front steps – two flyers promoting white supremacy.
When Marilyn Kraut returned home from walking her dog Thursday afternoon she noticed an unfamiliar sight on her front steps – a baggie containing two flyers and some rice to weigh it down.
“Our children pay the price for our inaction - Stand up white man” read one of the flyers upon closer inspection. The other flyer contained an ad for a white supremacist propaganda film entitled “Europa: The Last Battle.”
“When I read that, I knew it was some white supremacy thing,” said Kraut, a Cheltenham resident.
Kraut, who is Jewish, said she grew up in a “prejudiced environment” in Jacksonville, Fla., so she wasn’t surprised by the literature. Her husband David, who grew up in Philadelphia and has Holocaust survivors in his family, had the opposite reaction.
“I was shocked,” he said. “It’s not something I’m used to.”
The Krauts told the Local they were the only ones on their block to receive the flyers. But according to Springfield Township Board Commissioner Eddie Graham, residents in the neighborhoods of Glenside, Flourtown and Wyndmoor have also reported seeing the flyers on their properties.
“They hit a lot of communities with that vile material,” said Graham in a phone interview. “This is something that every resident of Springfield should be concerned about.”
The propaganda appears to be circulating across the boundaries of both Cheltenham and Springfield townships.
In Cheltenham Township, chief of police John Slavin told the Local in a phone interview that his department received one complaint of the white nationalist literature and has assigned a detective to the case.
“We’re a very diverse community, especially the Laverock section,” Slavin said. “Anything that upsets our community, we want to do what we can to alleviate those concerns.”
The Springfield Police Department did not return the Local’s request for comment.
Graham, however, told the Local that police leadership have told him in private meetings that they do not believe the circulated literature rises to the level of a crime. Graham said he does not agree because he views the flyers as an act of “racial intimidation.”
“I’m concerned that our police department doesn’t see this as a criminal act,” he said. “I think racial intimidation is a criminal act.”
Springfield Township board president Jim Lee said he also doesn’t see the literature as criminal - although he does view it as a problem.
“When I’ve seen this stuff in the past, I’ve been surprised how high the bar is for a hate crime,” Lee said. “It’s not threatening or specifically calling anyone out, it's just recruiting for a despicable organization.”
Melissa Melewsky, an expert on First Amendment issues who serves as in-house counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, said that the legality of the literature depends on whether or not it incites violence – not whether it's offensive.
“Offensive speech is protected, fighting words are not,” she said. “Any regulation of speech has to be viewpoint neutral…The issue becomes whether these flyers cross the line into violent speech.”
Graham said the police knocked on the doors of properties who received the flyers and made an attempt to obtain surveillance footage of the flyers being placed on the ground.
“Unfortunately,” Graham said, “none of the cameras captured anything of use.”