Security footage of a man leaving one of the flyers on a front porch. (Screenshot/KSBW Action News 8)
Security footage of a man leaving one of the flyers on a front porch. (Screenshot/KSBW Action News 8)

White power flyers in Aptos bring faith leaders together

Antisemitic propaganda from the “Christian Identity” group Aryan Nations, which shares much of the same ideology as the Ku Klux Klan, was distributed in Aptos last week.

Similar to flyers found in rural Tulelake last year credited to the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, the leaflets in Aptos were weighted down in bags of white rice and placed on residential property. Some were attached to utility poles, according to a report in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, which said they were dropped between the evening of Aug. 24 and the following morning.

“No one should have to wake up to words of hate outside their front door,” county supervisor Zach Friend told the paper.

Security footage from outside a resident’s home published by KSBW News and others, purported to show a suspect, a white man with arm tattoos, a large backpack and headphones around his neck, leaving one of the flyers on a front porch.

The flyers were rife with Jew-hate and homophobia. They claimed Jews are part of an “Anti-Christ regime”; bore images of swastikas backgrounded by crucifixes; included pictures of a Jewish star covered with a strike-through; and called the LGBTQ Pride movement a “Jewish funded psyops” or psychological influence campaign to “dictate and manipulate public opinion.”

The propaganda concerned Jewish and other faith leaders in Aptos, an unincorporated town of about 6,300 residents 9 miles southeast of Santa Cruz. The leaflets were discovered in and around the Rancho Del Mar neighborhood and the Aptos Center shopping mall, which is about a five-minute drive from Temple Beth El, a Reform synagogue.

“It’s very upsetting and distressing,” said Rabbi Paula Marcus. Many of her congregants heard about the flyers or saw photos of them online, though she wasn’t aware of any of their homes being targeted. “We are aware that, sadly, this is what has been going on in our country.”

Founded in the 1970s, Aryan Nations, whose full name is the Church of Jesus Christ Christian–Aryan Nations, is “one of the country’s best-known enclaves of anti-Semitism and white nationalism,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. Though the white power group began in Idaho, today it is based in Phoenix, according to its website. Members are devoted to the belief that Adam, from the Book of Genesis, “is the father of the white race ONLY” and that “non-Aryans … are not merely inferior but are at war with us.” The group says it has been “fighting Jewish takeover for over 25 years.”

The Jewish community in Aptos is small, Marcus said, and there is a wider network of interfaith leaders known as the Tent of Abraham who often lend support to one another after hate incidents. When a Black Lives Matter mural was defaced about a month ago, Marcus attended a Zoom meeting with Black community leaders, including a representative of the NAACP, along with county officials.

People have been “reaching out, saying let us know if there is anything we can do,” Marcus said.

The town has experienced antisemitism before. About four years ago, someone painted Nazi graffiti on the parking lot behind Beth El, Marcus said. The end result of that incident was unexpected: Using security footage, police were able to identify the suspect, and working with the public defender and the district attorney’s office, synagogue leaders met with the accused to engage in a process of restorative justice.

“We all talked to him and said, this is what your action has done,” Marcus said, “to try to explain to him the impact of what he had perpetrated.”

A spokesperson for the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office said the flyering incident was being investigated. “Currently we have no leads on this right now,” Sgt. Cesar Ramirez said.

The Anti-Defamation League condemned the flyers in a statement Monday.

“The Aryan Nations’ brand and symbol has long been associated with antisemitism and racism,” said ADL regional director Seth Brysk. “These flyers intended to sow fear and hate within the Aptos community. ADL applauds County Supervisor Zach Friend, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart and the residents of Aptos for their resolute rejection of the hate-filled messaging.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.