LANCASTER – More than two dozen community leaders, civil rights activists, city commissioners and concerned residents joined local law enforcement captains Monday morning in a press conference to address the hate fliers recently circulated in Lancaster and Palmdale.
“The NAACP has called this press conference today to say in no uncertain terms and no uncertain language that we will not allow these fliers to divide our community,” said local NAACP President V. Jesse Smith. “We have worked too hard in our community to come together as a united community… Black, white, brown, red and yellow, we’re working together as a united front, and we’re not going to allow anyone who desires to divide this unity to come between us.”
“In this community we’ve already set the precedent for change,” said Nigel Holly, founding member of The Community Action League. “These fliers are just a mere reflection of those who resist that change.”
In mid-December, several 8 1/2 x 11 papers containing derogatory language and racial slurs were found in a Lancaster neighborhood. The fliers referenced a Lancaster address in the 44000 Block of 11th Street West, where people would get “shot at” if they had a problem with the fliers.
“I would like to point out that the address that’s mentioned in the fliers is a vacant home, so whoever is putting these out isn’t actually calling anybody to that location other than to cause problems for that particular home,” said Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Captain Pat Nelson.
Nelson said there had been an ongoing investigation in that neighborhood, even before the fliers were reported.
“There’s been some reported problems with those particular properties in the past,” Nelson said, adding that the problems included vandalism and a number of minor incidents, all possibly related. “As that investigation progressed, these fliers began appearing,” Nelson continued. “We’re certain that it’s going to be the same individual that’s causing problems for those particular houses on 11th street, so we’re going to continue to work that angle.”
About a week after the hate fliers were reported in Lancaster, fliers containing similar language were found scattered on a public roadway in the 900 block of East Avenue Q-4 in Palmdale. The Palmdale hate fliers contained threatening messages aimed at African Americans and referenced the same address as the fliers found in Lancaster.
“These hate fliers that have been found in the streets of Palmdale and Lancaster represent some of the worst that we’ve seen in this Valley, but we wanted to point out that this Valley is not about racism…,” said Palmdale Sheriff’s Station Captain Don Ford. “For a Valley of nearly 500 thousand people, last year there were 17 reported hate crimes… and they range not only against race, but against sexual orientation, against religion, against other things.”
The Sheriff’s Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force is handling the ongoing investigation, which is being classified as a “hate incident.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to make every attempt to identify who’s responsible,” said Task Force detective Christopher Keeling. “We do have some leads, but things that we can prove are what’s important.”
At Monday’s press conference, community leaders urged the public to unite against hate.
“Unfortunately, we’re coming out behind this, but the challenge is that we begin to organize and mobilize like never before,” said Stan Muhammad, local director for the Nation of Islam.
“It is our responsibility and obligation as community residents to come forth and speak out against this kind of racism…” Smith said. “It’s now time for us to speak up as one united front. We’re not going to allow the weapons of hatred or racism to try to destroy it.”
Other speakers at Monday’s press conference included Xavier Flores, President of the Antelope Valley Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Darren Parker of the Antelope Valley Human Relations Commission; Jeanine Militello of the Lancaster Human Relations Tapestry Commission; Lancaster Mayor Emeritus Bishop Henry Hearns; Morris Thomas, District Director for Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon; and Gwen Cole of the High Desert Alliance of Black Educators.
Anyone with information regarding this investigation is urged to contact Detective Melissa Sullivan of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Hate Crimes Task Force at 661-940-3857.