At the vigil for shooting victims in Squirrel Hill. Photo by Ryan Rydzewski.

Racist and anti-Semitic literature was found in the streets and front yards of Squirrel Hill and other Pittsburgh neighborhoods over the weekend.

The fliers feature several blocks of text on standard, A4 paper bearing a logo extolling “The loyal white knights of the Ku Klux Klan” and advertising the group’s website and national hotline.

In a statement released on Sunday, Pittsburgh Police and the Department of Public Safety said they are “taking this matter very seriously and will follow every investigative avenue.”

“Pittsburgh is and will remain Stronger than Hate,” read the statement.

While the full extent of the distribution is unknown at this time, the fliers are a chilling development for a city and a community only a few weeks removed from one of the worst acts of anti-Semitic violence in the nation’s history.

“The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh stands in solidarity with the African-American community and all other communities who join with us as we continue to fight anti-Semitism, racism and hate with love,” said Jeff Finkelstein, CEO of the Jewish Federation, in a statement about the fliers.

“We have the utmost confidence in our local and national law enforcement as they investigate,” he added.

While the fliers appear to be written in the style of a come-on for new members, the actual intent of their distribution may have been to harass and intimidate. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were 36 active hate groups in Pennsylvania in 2017, including dozens of white nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations.

How can Pittsburghers respond?

According to the organization’s community response guide for hate crimes, some of the most effective individual responses to any kind of hate-based offense is the simple act of identifying and denouncing the act — whether that’s on social media, in a community group or simply among a person’s family and social circle.

Speaking up, they say, can make a difference.

In addition, the guide recommends that hate-based harassment, no matter how seemingly trivial, should always be reported to local police, as it could become critical evidence in future legal proceedings.

It can also be valuable to help shine a light on events you see happening in our community, whether that means celebrating the growing solidarity between groups in Pittsburgh who stand together against hate or publicizing problems and exploring potential solutions.

Since Oct. 27, tributes and support for victims of the Tree of Life shooting have come from all over the country, with several notable benefits and charity drives coming in the last two weeks to mark the beginning of Hannukah.

At the same time, the nonprofit news organization ProPublica has continued managing the Documenting Hate project (first launched in 2017), a hub for both citizens and local news organizations to document and share stories of hate crimes and bias incidents. Their coverage has included stories related to the Tree of Life shooting and the stabbing of Dulane Cameron, Jr. in August.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.