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Woodhaven shocked by racist leaflets on cars

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Anti-Semitic, racist and anti-government leaflets placed on car windshields along 85th Drive by a white supremacist organization with a history of violence stunned the ethnically diverse Woodhaven neighborhood July 24.

According to police spokeswoman Carmen Melendez, the incident is being investigated as a bias crime by the 102nd Precinct.

“This neighborhood is too diverse for that kind of stuff,” said Rafael Larinaga, a resident of the neighborhood for six months. “The reason I moved here was because of its diversity. To find this literature here is too much. I’m overwhelmed.”

Karina Quezada, a resident of Woodhaven for eight years, awoke one weekday morning to find the leaflet neatly folded on her car windshield.

“I laughed,” she said. “I couldn’t take it seriously. This is the product of uneducated individuals. If you’re going to do something, at least be up front about it.”

The fliers, which were folded and placed on cars sometime between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m., were distributed by followers of the World Church of the Creator, a Peoria, Ill.-based group. Above photographs of three babies of color was the question: “Do You Want Your Children to Look Like This?”

Melendez said the 102nd Precinct was alerted to the leaflets by 7 a.m. the day they appeared.

The leaflet cited the “genocidal policies of the United States government and the Jewish-controlled media which promotes these policies,” warning they would “bring about the death of the White Race.”

The organization’s web site states it is dedicated to fighting for the “survival, expansion, and advancement of the White Race exclusively.” In a telephone interview, the group’s leader, the Rev. Matt Hale, said the distribution was part of a nationwide “Hale Blitz” to coincide with his 30th birthday. He added, “in general, we encourage people to pass out fliers.”

Despite claiming to pursue its goals through non-violence, WCOTC received national coverage in July 1999 when Benjamin Smith, a church leader, went on a shooting rampage against minorities in the Midwest.

WCOTC has 81 branches and an estimated 60,000 supporters nationwide, including “several hundred” in the New York area, according to Hale.

but Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which tracks hate groups, called Hale’s estimate “utterly absurd.” He said the World Church is mostly web-based and has no more than a thousand members in the United States.

According to Potok, there has been a steady rise in the number of hate groups operating in the United States in the last seven or eight years. In 1999 the Southern Poverty Law Center estimated there were 457 hate groups in the United States, including 13 in New York. By 2000, the organization tracked 602 hate groups nationwide, including 23 in New York.

Despite the increase in hate groups across the country, Woodhaven residents were surprised that the literature reached their ethnically diverse backyard.

“I’m shocked,” said Maureen Fleming, who has lived in Woodhaven for 12 years. “I can’t imagine that this kind of literature would be distributed in this neighborhood. It’s ethnically mixed.”

Figures for the 2000 census show a 181 percent increase in the number of Hispanics and a 50 percent rise in the Asian population living in Woodhaven since 1990. Non-Hispanic blacks have also increased, albeit at a slower rate. Over the same period, the white population has declined slightly. Woodhaven has 52,139 residents, according to the census.

Fleming said “it’s not a white neighborhood. It’s not a black neighborhood. It reflects the city.”

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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