The police department in Kenosha, Wisconsin, fined a 56-year-old man with fines totaling just over $4,300 for allegedly placing antisemitic flyers on vehicles, the Kenosha Police Department announced in a press release Friday.
The city issued 23 citations, each carrying a fine of $187, against the suspect Wednesday for littering, a violation of the Kenosha City ordinance 11.02U, the department’s press release said. The department classifies littering as “throw, place or deposit any paper, glass, bottle, cans” and other materials onto private property without the owner’s consent.
The department opened its investigation in Dec. 2021, after being notified several members of the community allegedly discovered the antisemitic flyers on their vehicle windshields, driveways and walkways.
Several in the community questioned whether the distribution of the flyers constituted a hate crime. Police, however, did not charge the suspect for the content on the flyers since his free speech right to state antisemitic rhetoric is protected under the First Amendment, the release said. (RELATED: Hundreds Of Anti-Semitic Flyers Found In Several Cities Throughout The Country)
“Technically, the flyer is a form of free speech, protected by the First Amendment; however, many members of the Kenosha community had very deep concerns regarding the materials, even questioning if the distribution qualified as a hate crime. It does not, pursuant to WI § 939.645 which covers crimes committed against certain people or property,” the release said.
Residents in the community think the suspect received too lenient of a charge, local outlet TMJ4 reported. A Jewish Kenosha resident, Marilyn Propp, told the outlet that she is “terrified” that the suspect only faced a littering charge rather than facing hate crime charges.
“The flyers come from a long history of accusing the Jews of anything and everything to ferment hatred, and hatred leads to violence, and that’s terrifying,” Propp said.
Rabbi Dena Feingold told the outlet she understands the reason behind the charges and defended an individual’s First Amendment protections.
“There is the first amendment that protects people even from saying horrible things,” said Feingold.
An attorney, John Ward, said a hate crime is classified as “actually committing a crime” and does not include “thought or speech,” according to the outlet.