Racist flyers distributed at Smucker-King debate
Those leaving the 11th District debate at Eastern York High School on Tuesday, Oct. 30, flowed out of the school to find racist flyers spread among the parking lot full of more than 100 vehicles.
Multiple flyers were placed on attendees' vehicles warning of Mexican immigrants coming to "invade" the United States and encouraging citizens to arm themselves.
They also gave additional information on semi-automatic rifles, specifically AR-15s, and warned against the "war on gun ownership."
It is unclear what individual or organization distributed the flyers during the debate between Republican incumbent Rep. Lloyd Smucker and Democratic challenger Jess King.
Sgt. James Thomas of the Lower Windsor Township Police Department confirmed that the department received multiple complaints about the flyers on Wednesday.
Thomas said the department decided to not look further into the flyers after consulting with the York County District Attorney's Office, which said nothing could be done because the flyers were voicing freedom of speech.
Although the content of the flyers "was disturbing and meant to annoy or alarm people," Thomas said, "it doesn't necessarily rise to the offense of criminal."
Candidates respond: In response to the flyers, Smucker campaign spokesman Mike Barley emphasized the campaign had nothing to do with them and condemned the act.
“This flyer is not associated at all with the Smucker for Congress campaign," Barley said. "We did not pay or authorize it. Our campaign does not tolerate racism or violence in any way and does not approve of the messages on this flyer.”
King campaign spokesman Guido Girgenti also verified they "had nothing to do with the flyers, and we're deeply troubled by them."
King herself urged Smucker to "stop fear-mongering in his ads and join me in calling for an end to the politics of hate."
"It's troubling to see some people fall prey to fear, but it's more troubling to see that some party leaders in D.C. are also stoking the flames of bigotry to distract us and divide us before Election Day," King said.
Contents of flyers: Nicole Jackson, of Lititz, Lancaster County, posted two of the flyers on her Facebook page Wednesday, Oct. 31, voicing her disgust at their contents.
"The goal of Mexicans is to take back the southwestern area of the United States," one flyer read.
"You'll wish you had an AR-15 if the Communists invade America," another read, adding, "You may also wish you had an AR-15 to protect your family against roaming mobs when society breaks down."
Upon reading them, Jackson said she felt "disappointment that this is where we're at and fear that this is what people are trying to do."
"Telling people that arming themselves with machine guns is not where we should be going," she said. "There are so many things in (the flyers) that are blatantly not true."
Jackson said the flyers are a materialization of politics "being greatly influenced by fear" and being based on intimidation of voters, but she added there are certain groups of people who already have those "misguided views."
Another debate attendee, Teddy Vasquez, also of Lititz, said the flyers Tuesday night "were an indirect attack on all immigrants."
Vasquez's parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic, and he said he took the matter personally.
"Promoting hate won't solve anything," he said. "It's completely absurd. This country was founded by immigrants, and there's no reason why we should now start to exclude immigrants because they're of different color or religion."
Vasquez referred to comments made by Smucker during the debate, when the candidate claimed immigrants "are coming to harm us."
"I was very angry, and at the same time I felt like this is the real reason why we need to get candidates elected who are in support of everyone," Vasquez said.
Like Jackson, Vasquez said the political atmosphere right now "has opened up the doors for all these people."
August KKK flyers: Such racially charged flyers aren't new to York County.
In August, Ku Klux Klan recruitment flyers were spotted at Regal Cinemas at West Manchester Town Center.
The flyers were distributed by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in response to the Spike Lee movie "BlacKkKlansman," which portrays a black detective going undercover to infiltrate the KKK.
Flyers also were placed in Dover Township, York City and the Red Lion area, Northern York County Regional Police reported.
— Logan Hullinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.