Group of people marching
Danville residents "March Against Hate" in a peace rally held February 26, 2022. (Photo/Tyler Callister)

Danville rallies against hate after antisemitic flyer drop

Weeks after Danville residents expressed shock and dismay when antisemitic flyers were discovered along a popular walking and cycling trail, an estimated 250 community members gathered on Saturday for a March Against Hate rally.

The nonprofit group Interfaith of the San Ramon Valley called for and organized the march, which culminated with passionate speeches from faith and city leaders on the lawn in front of the Danville Library. 

Marchers in the East Bay town of about 45,000 held signs with sayings such as “United Against Hate” and “We Choose Love.” 

The antisemitic flyers, discovered on the Iron Horse Regional Trail by Danville residents around 10 p.m. Feb. 2, contained false propaganda about the Holocaust and photos of train tracks leading to Auschwitz. Images of the flyers drew strong reactions after being posted on NextDoor, with residents responding with comments such as “outrageous,” “cowardly” and “scary.” 

But Saturday’s rally struck a deeply different tone. Speakers from local faith communities invoked words such as “love,” “unity” and “togetherness.”

Woman smiles while playing guitar
Eve Decker sings peaceful protest songs at the “March Against Hate” in Danville. (Photo/Tyler Callister)

“Tikkun olam means to repair the world — to heal the world — and to bring that reconciling love to the world which it needs so desperately,” said the first speaker, the Rev. Steve Harms of Peace Lutheran Church in Danville. “We need it for ourselves. It’s for our own sake. But friends, tikkun olam is also for those poisoned by fear and hate. We are here to help them recover their humanity.”

Rabbi Dan Goldblatt, who also addressed the crowd, told a reporter that he believes “history was made with this march.”

Man wearing yarmulke speaks into microphone
Rabbi Dan Goldblatt of Beth Chaim Congregation speaks to the crowd in Danville. (Photo/Tyler Callister)

The rabbi of Beth Chaim Congregation in Danville added, “This may well have been the first time in the history of Contra Costa County that there was a public march and rally in support of the Jewish community and standing up against antisemitism.”

One of those taking a stand was Mayor Newell Arnerich, who said he had written an official proclamation in response to the antisemitic flyers titled “United Against Hate,” which he read in full.

Dated Feb. 26, the proclamation states that “based on recent events, we cannot begin to understand the depths of anguish and pain made by the inexcusable accusations made against people of the Jewish faith in flyers passed around our community.” It goes on: “… national rhetoric has generated a toxic environment that encourages the propagation of racist, xenophobic, antisemitic, sexist, homophobic, Islamaphobic and other bigoted views by emboldended hate groups and individuals.” 

The proclamation concludes, “Danville does hereby condemn any and all forms of hatred in our community and recognize this [rally] as an important step in bridging divisions and healing communities.”

Danville Vice Mayor Robert Storer strongly condemned the flyers, as well, telling the crowd, “We will not accept hatred. We will not accept discrimination. And we will not accept fear and anger against anyone in this community, ever.” 

Person holds "Stop the Hate" sign
Danville community members march in demonstration against antisemitic flyers that were found on a local walking trail. (Photo/Tyler Callister)

The drop of offensive flyers along the East Bay Regional Park District trail in Danville was one of a handful of similar incidents in the Bay Area in recent weeks. On Jan. 23, similar flyers were discovered in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights.Other flyers were found in Palo Alto on Feb. 20. All advertised Goyim TV, an antisemitic video-sharing website headed by a Petaluma man. 

Similar flyers appear to be proliferating across the country. In at least eight states, Goyim TV–linked flyers have been discovered, drawing attention from CNN and other national outlets. 

Avital Andrews, a Danville resident who attended the rally, explained why she came. “My grandparents are Holocaust survivors and my great-grandparents did not survive. To see this in the community that my child is growing up in is not acceptable, and I have to make a stand,” she said. 

So does she feel safe in the town that has been recognized for four straight years as the safest community in California on the website SafeWise? “We do feel safe here,” Andrews said of Danville, “which is why we want to stamp this out as soon as it rears its ugly head.”

Tyler Callister

Tyler Callister is a freelancer and J. contributor whose work has appeared in SF Weekly, The Almanac and The Piedmonter.