Appearance Of Antisemitic And Racist Flyers Stun Wellington Neighborhoods

There were several different flyers thrown on Wellington lawns that included antisemitic (left) and racist (right) rhetoric.

Residents in several Wellington neighborhoods woke up Labor Day morning to find plastic baggies containing hateful antisemitic and racist rhetoric thrown on hundreds of front lawns.

Reports on social media quickly turned into news reports and activated a swift response from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. The incident was a key topic of discussion at the next day’s meeting of the Wellington Village Council.

“This was a very significant incident of hate speech being delivered into our community in a very individualized sort of way through weighted bags being delivered to houses in numerous neighborhoods,” Councilman John McGovern said at the Tuesday, Sept. 5 meeting.

The hate-filled flyers were reported in the neighborhoods of Emerald Forest, Sugar Pond Manor, Pinewood Manor and Paddock Park. However, Capt. Nichole Addazio, who leads the PBSO’s Wellington district, said that the flyers were not confined to Wellington.

Addazio offered the council a summary of what the PBSO has done and is still looking to accomplish. She noted that it is an ongoing law enforcement investigation, so there are details that she will not be able to share.

“Yesterday [Sept. 4] including a lot of sharing of information from about 7:30 in the morning when we were first notified to about 3:30 in the afternoon,” she said. “We made some great strides. We learned that Wellington was not really targeted here. It was a very widespread distribution, and that included Boca Raton, North Palm Beach, Jupiter, as well as other police agencies and in Martin County.”

Addazio said that a number of different flyers were distributed, each with a different message, contained in baggies weighed down by a type of pellet. She noted that the PBSO’s strategic intelligence unit and its targeted violence unit are on board, looking into the situation, as are Wellington detectives, particularly trying to determine if the flyers pose a “credible threat.”

“Some of these organizations are very smart in their approach,” Addazio said. “They know just what to write for it not to be a violation.”

Addazio noted that she and other PBSO leaders have spoken directly with leaders of the local Jewish community, adding extra patrols both in the community and at Jewish houses of worship, which are about to celebrate the key Jewish holidays that make up the High Holy Days.

“This could be an indication of things to come,” she said. “We are fully aware, and we are on top of things.”

Addazio added that the entire countywide agency is working collaboratively on this case.

She informed the council that a bill was passed in Tallahassee this year regarding “public nuisance littering.” House Bill 269 was approved by the governor on May 1, which “prohibits a person from distributing onto private property any material for purpose of intimidating or threatening the owner, resident or invitee.”

“There are a couple of different statutes that we are looking at,” Addazio said. “This includes misdemeanor charges versus felony charges. With the felony charge, it has to be a credible threat.”

She believes that the PBSO has a copy of at least one of each type of the five or six different flyers that were distributed. Detectives are also reviewing video evidence that was collected.

“A large number of citizens, in the morning, when they woke up and saw all these bags, some of them, on their own, just went and collected them around their neighborhoods and disposed of them in an effort as to not upset their neighbors and have other people see these flyers,” Addazio said.

Mayor Anne Gerwig was glad to hear that the PBSO was on top of the situation.

“We are handling it the best that we can, and that is, I think, what the public wants to know,” she said.

McGovern was proud of how Wellington residents responded to the situation.

“I want to thank our residents,” he said. “From the very first moments of this, residents from all portions of the community made it very clear that hate is not going to be tolerated in this community.”

Addazio noted that this week’s distribution is not an isolated incident. Both the PBSO and the West Palm Beach Police Department have made some recent arrests of a particular group out of Port Saint Lucie.

“It is unfortunate that this keeps happening, but we are not just one targeted area,” she said. “This was a blanketed effort across the county.”