Antisemitic flyers spur consideration of hate crime ordinance in Mount Pleasant

Published: Oct. 27, 2023 at 4:45 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 27, 2023 at 6:47 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Mount Pleasant could join a handful of other South Carolina communities increasing penalties for bias-motivated crimes at the municipal level, as the state remains without a hate crime law.

Earlier this week, Mount Pleasant police discovered that 500 flyers promoting antisemitic propaganda and conspiracy theories had been delivered to seven neighborhoods.

“They’re pathetic and they’re trying to make it look like this is the way the town of Mount Pleasant feels and it has backfired. Our community is responding with outrage,” Haynie said.

“People are very disturbed when they see those types of flyers, but people also recognize that it doesn’t take a lot. You just need a photocopy machine and a little bit of hate and you can make any flyer that you want,” Rabbi Yossi Refson, with the Chabad of Charleston at the Center for Jewish Life, said.

It’s not the first time this has happened this year, either.

Haynie says the town is seriously considering enacting a hate crime ordinance, following in the footsteps of other municipalities like Charleston and most recently Bluffton.

South Carolina remains one of two states without a law against hate crimes.

“Freedom of speech we all understand, but do you not have the freedom to walk out in your driveway on your private property in the morning and not be confronted with this?” he said. “Without pointing a gun at you, they have robbed you of your enjoyment of life, your peace and your security and that of your children.”

The Anti-Defamation League reported this week that anti-Semitic incidents increased by nearly 400% since the war began in Israel and Gaza on Oct. 7, over the same period last year.

The group that took credit for the act has been identified by the ADL as a hate group whose “overarching goal is to expel” Jewish people from America.

As it stands now, those responsible for the distribution of the flyers could only face a charge for littering on private property.

A criminal investigation is ongoing.

Haynie says the police, judicial and legal committees tentatively are scheduled to meet next month to discuss the possible ordinance.

However, he says it’s not something they’re planning on rushing into and believes any proposed ordinance would require more consideration for the final code.

“A hate crime bill would be an excellent addition. We just got to make sure that the bill doesn’t have other interests attached to it, which will limit the freedom of speech,” Refson said.

In the meantime, he says the outpouring of support from neighbors, clergy members from other organizations, politicians and the community at large has been reassuring.

He says the Mount Pleasant Police Department was diligent in collecting the flyers early in the morning, and in one case he says a neighbor collected 30 flyers to prevent others from seeing them.

“The only way to dispel darkness is by increasing light. If, light by light, deed by deed, kindness by kindness, eventually we’ll be able to dispel the darkness,” he said. “It only takes a small candle to light up a dark room.”