More than a dozen people associated with the Goyim Defense League, an anti-Jewish hate group, visited Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach this past weekend to spread antisemitic propagandaaccording to the Anti-Defamation League and reporting by the News-Journal.
Members of the hate group stood on the pedestrian bridge over International Speedway Boulevard on Saturday and held up banners with antisemitic statements on them. The group also attempted to digitally project hate speech onto the Daytona International Speedway the day before the 500the ADL reported.
But a bill introduced earlier this year in the Florida House, HB 269: Public Nuisances, seeks to increase penalties in connection with such activities. The bill was in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee as of Feb. 1.
In Ormond Beach, police said flyers with anti-Semitic propaganda were distributed throughout the city this weekend. Although officials have not attributed them to any group, the flyers reference GoyimTV.TV, a video platform for the Goyim Defense League.
The banners and flyers were coordinated efforts by the GDL and “NatSoc Florida,” according to the watchdog group StopAntisemitism. The GDL is known for dumping antisemitic propaganda in yards in multiple cities and hoisting banners similar to the ones displayed Sunday.
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Who proposed the bill and what would it do?
Representative Mike Caruso, R-Delray Beach, filed the bill in January. It is co-sponsored by Rep. Vicki Lopez, R-Miami, and several others including Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County.
If a person violates Florida’s litter law with “material that evidences religious or ethnic animus,” the offense would be reclassified as a third-degree felony and reported as a hate crime, the proposed bill’s text states.
HB 269:Read the proposed bill here
The bill also makes it a felony and hate crime if a person:
Willfully follows, harasses or interferes with someone based on the “person’s wearing of religious-based garments or garments commonly associated with a particular religious or ethnic group or any other indicia of any religious or ethnic heritage”
Willfully and maliciously defaces, injures or damages a religious cemetery or any gravesite, marker, memorial, plaque, statue, museum, school, community center, or other public or private property that has any indicia of any religious or ethnic heritage (this includes ” any physical manifestations of anti-Semitism…such as a swastika”)
“Projects an image outdoors onto a publicly or privately owned building or other property” without the owner’s written consent if the image evidences religious or ethnic animus
Willfully interrupts or disturbs “any school or any assembly of people met for the worship of God, any assembly of people for the purpose of acknowledging the death of an individual, or for any other lawful purpose” with religious or ethnic animus
How did local law enforcement respond to recent incidents?
Daytona Beach police referred to the group on the pedestrian bridge as “First Amendment Auditors,” according to a press release.
A police spokesperson said the group tried to bait officers “into violating their rights in hopes of acquiring justification for a lawsuit” against the department.
“The Daytona Beach Police Department remained and will continue to remain professional through their encounters with them while they exercised their first amendment rights,” the release states.
Daytona Beach police Chief Jakari Young said officers are investigating, and anyone with information should contact Sgt. Tim Ehrenkaufer at email@example.com.
Ormond Beach police Chief Jesse Godfrey also put out a statement denouncing the dissemination of antisemitic propaganda, which he said police are investigating.
Godfrey urged anyone with information to contact Cpl. Jeremy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are legislators saying?
During a press conference announcing the proposed bill in January, Caruso pointed to recent incidents of Jewish women and children being harassed and projections of hate speech on buildings.
“If we don’t do something now, then soon we just may have 1933 Nazi Germany here all over again, and I will not stand here and do nothing; I will not be complacent, and I will not sit around,” Caruso said .
Fine pointed to the rising number of antisemitic incidents across the state and country and the need to address it, and how the First Amendment comes into play.
“Silence in the face of evil is evil itself,” Fine said. “You have the right to be a Nazi, but you do not have the right to be a Nazi and engage in criminal conduct, whether it is littering, whether it is trespassing, whether it is assault.”
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Bill seeks to curb antisemitism like incidents in Daytona, Ormond