OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Taking a stand against antisemitism in the Kansas City metro, a De Soto, Kansas, business owner is getting rid of products made by a man who posted hateful comments about Jewish people on social media.
Those comments happened in the last 24 hours on a Facebook page belonging to the Olathe-based small business known as Pepper Cave.
The owner, Justin Bale, posted derogatory images and degrading slurs.
When FOX4 reached out to Bale for a statement via email Thursday afternoon, we received a hate-filled response.
FOX4 is choosing not to share that message, or the negative comments posted online for this story.
On a quiet road in De Soto, Michael Raether runs Happy Valley Farm with his wife, Patti. They sell items from local vendors to support small businesses in the area.
“This is all rubs,” said Raether while pointing to products belonging to Pepper Cave. “But it’s going to get thrown away. It’s not going anywhere. I wouldn’t even donate it to anybody.”
Straight to the trash. That’s where Raether plans to put these products before the days end.
“I saw [the Facebook page] and my first thought was, ‘This guy’s been hacked.’ So, I texted him to ask, ‘Is this you?’ And he kind of went on a tirade and I said, ‘It is you!'”
Raether had only started selling the products this past summer.
As of Thursday night, Bale’s posts and comments remain visible online. They even got him banned from selling his items at the Overland Park Farmer’s Market, where he would set up shop on the weekends with dozens of other local vendors. He’s also since been removed from the market’s website as one of its vendors.
In a statement, the city said in part, “These posts do not reflect the City’s or the Overland Park Farmers’ Market’s values. In fact, this content directly contradicts our strategic goal of being a welcoming and inclusive community and organization.”
“This business owner’s posts are some of the most virulent, despicable, sickening example of antisemitism that I’ve ever seen,” said Gavriella Geller, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Bureau.
Her organization educates people on how to identify antisemitism and prevent it.
“Johnson County and Jackson County have serious issues with growing white nationalists and white supremacist ideology,” Geller said.
She said 41% of American Jews feel less safe in the United States this year than they did one year ago.
Geller’s reaction comes as data from the Anti-Defamation League showed a 36% increase in antisemitic incidents in the U.S. between 2021 and 2022 with nearly 3,700 incidents. That’s the highest number on record since 1979, when data collecting started.
The Jewish Community Relations Bureau is actively working with local governments to combat antisemitism and white nationalism. Just this year, they’ve helped pass nine resolutions in Johnson County.
One of those is at the county level and eight are at the city level in places like Prairie Village, Overland Park and Leawood.
Back at Happy Valley Farm, Raether is making space for someone new, as the shelf where the company in question’s products once stood is now vacant.
“Now we got room for another vendor, a good vendor,” Raether said.