A mayoral candidate in Hoboken, NJ, was labeled a terrorist in a racist flier that began circulating in the city on Friday night. “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town,” the leaflet read above of Ravi Bhalla, who currently sits on Hoboken’s City Council.
Bhalla, a Sikh who wears a turban, shared an image of the flier to social media on Friday. “I want people to know Hoboken, is a welcoming community where my wife and I are proud to raise our children,” he wrote on Twitter after sharing an image of the flier. “No matter your race [or] ethnicity, you are welcome here in our city. As mayor I will work hard to keep it that way.”
Authorities are reportedly investigating fliers’ distribution as possible biased harassment. “We are in the initial stages of this investigation and we are acquiring evidence and information witnesses,” Charles Cambell, Captain of the Hoboken Police Department, told NBC News in a statement. The leaflet appeared on car windshields just days before Hoboken residents will head to the polls on Tuesday.
Text in the upper lefthand corner of leaflet falsely claims it was paid for by Michael DeFusco, Bhalla’s opponent. According to a statement released by DeFusco’s campaign on Friday night, the bigoted flier was edited to look like a previous ad sent out by his campaign alleging Bhalla had conflicts of interest. DeFusco also described the flier as “racist garbage” and a “political stunt” aimed at dividing the community:
Hoboken is far better than this and whoever made this flier is not only insulting one of my opponents in a despicable way, they are also painting me as a racist, which as the only openly gay elected official in Hudson County and a progressive Democrat simply could not be further from the truth.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey also came to Bhalla’s defense. “My friend Ravi Bhalla is running for Hoboken mayor,” Booker tweeted. “This vile hateful flyer was put out. I condemn it! We all must condemn bigotry and hate!”
Racist fliers continue to be a persistent issue in New Jersey’s local elections. Last week, residents in Edison, NJ, received an anonymous political ad calling for the deportation of two school board candidates who are Asian American and Indian American.