Police investigate antisemitic messages in Oakland Beach

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WARWICK – Police are investigating after at least 80 plastic bags containing antisemitic messages were dropped in yards in the Oakland Beach neighborhood early Tuesday.

Residents woke up Tuesday morning to find clear plastic bags on their lawns and driveways containing a handful of pellets and fliers reading “Kanye 2024” and “Defcon 3 on Jewish People,” along with an image of a partial face and a crossed-out Star of David. The Providence Journal reported that at least two residents sent them photos of the bags and their contents.

Warwick Police Maj. Joel Thomas told WPRI that the pellets, initially feared to be poisonous, turned out to be home-heating pellets and did not contain any poisonous substance.

Investigators are now reviewing surveillance video from the area, taking witness statements and searching for the owner of a vehicle seen on surveillance images, WPRI reported.

Given the antisemitic messaging, Thomas said Warwick police are now working with the FBI to potentially pursue federal charges, in addition to local charges. Each bag may be treated as a separate charge, he said.

Also on Tuesday, similar flyers were found in North Providence, according to reports.

Adam Greenman, president and CEO of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, said these types of incidents are “becoming far too common throughout our country and throughout our state,” adding that it’s only gotten worse since the recent antisemitic tweets from celebrities such as Kanye West and Kyrie Irving.

“It gives a permission structure for folks who already had these views to be more brazen and to be more active, and that’s something that really concerns us,” Greenman said.

According to the Alliance, there have been 23 antisemitism incidents reported to using its online tracker at jewishallianceri.org since June. There were six incidents reported during the same period last year.

Congressman Jim Langevin tweeted that his “neighbors in Warwick woke up to find these disgusting fliers.”

“Antisemitism has no place in our community, and those found responsible must be held accountable,” he wrote.

Peggy Shukur, interim regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in New England, said in a statement: “The increasingly frequent tactic of blanketing communities with hateful, racist and antisemitic messages is intended to create fear and intimidation. Yet this cowardly display of hate can have the effect of uniting our communities to speak out against it.

“Since the beginning of 2022, ADL has tracked over 300 similar hateful propaganda drops nationwide, with various extremist and neo-Nazi groups claiming credit.”

Warwick police ask anyone with information or surveillance video to call them at 401-468-4200.

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and current as of Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.