Racist campaign flyers should be condemned, could be illegal, lawyer says
Will any charges or penalties be handed down as a result of flat-out racist campaign material distributed in Edison and Hoboken over the past week?
As of now, authorities have not determined whether criminal laws were broken when mailers in Edison told voters "The Chinese and Indians are taking over our town!" and donned two Asian-American candidates' photos with a "DEPORT stamp," or when flyers placed on windshields in Hoboken insisted a Sikh councilman's election as the city's next mayor would "let TERRORISM take over."
The Edison mailers did not say who paid for the material, which goes against state election law. The Hoboken flyers mentioned one of the target's challengers as the financial source, but that challenger has denied any involvement.
"There needs to be an investigation to uncover more of the facts," said Scott Novakowski, associate counsel with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Novakowski said these recent acts "need to be condemned in the strongest terms" — candidates and state/local officials of both parties need to "speak out against such attempts at intimidation and make it clear that diversity is what makes our country great and our democracy strong."
The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office had said on Thursday it would be investigating to see whether any criminal laws were broken. When reached for comment on Monday, the office said there was no update.
As of Monday evening, the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office did not return a request for comment on whether they are looking into the matter. The Office of the Attorney General would not confirm or deny an investigation, which is routine.
Hoboken Police released a black-and-white video on Monday showing a man walking down the street holding a stack of fliers. Police Chief Ken Ferrante posted a message on his Twitter account that putting campaign fliers on vehicles and utility poles is illegal under city ordinances. He said Hoboken Police were investigating.
"Since the 2016 campaign, we've seen a lot more of these racist and xenophobic acts," Novakowski said, noting he's never seen unsavory campaign material reach this level of explicitness.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.