Jewish Students at U of Florida ‘Shocked’ by Cyclist Wearing Swastika Armband Riding Around Campus
Jewish students at the University of Florida (UF) were stunned Tuesday at the sight of a man with a swastika armband riding a bicycle around campus, the independent student newspaper The Alligator reported.
“When I first saw it I was shocked,” said Avichaim Snyder, adding that he witnessed University Police stop the cyclist, question him and then “[share] a laugh,” before allowing him to ride away.
“I got very aggravated about what was happening. I would have preferred the cop to tell him to take off the swastika,” Snyder said. “The fact that he let him go on his merry way without saying anything was just wrong.”
Students promoting Jewish Heritage Month at an outdoor table said they saw the man ride by as they were packing up to leave. The vice president of the school’s Jewish Student Union, who said she was scared by the incident, added that she was “very thankful” that her peers were already moving away from the area.
The co-directors of the campus Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Student and Community Center called the incident “an expression of antisemitism and hate,” while the head of UF Hillel said it was “not only unacceptable, but also the antithesis of the embracing and diverse Gator Nation.”
Photos and videos of the man riding around campus quickly made the rounds on social media. It still remains unclear whether the cyclist is a UF student or someone from outside the campus community.
UF spokesperson John Hines said in a statement that while the school does not endorse racism on campus, the man was exhibiting a form of political expression protected under the First Amendment.
“However, it is critical to recognize that swastikas are symbols associated with the Holocaust which exterminated six million Jews as well as multitudes of individuals from other persecuted groups on the basis of their race or religion. The University of Florida encourages inclusion and respect, not hate,” the statement read.
According to the report, Tuesday’s incident is but the latest antisemitic episode at UF. Last Halloween, Snyder said, he saw someone dressed up as Adolf Hitler. Also, he recounted, he was once heckled — while wearing a Star of David — by five students who called him a “dirty Jew” and “Zionist pig.”
As The Algemeiner reported earlier this month, Kenneth Marcus — president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law — called the US Department of Education “paralyzed” when it comes to protecting Jewish students, due to the absence of a system-wide definition of antisemitism. Marcus said that DoEd’s department charged with combating hate crimes on campus is “stymied by antisemitism cases,” even though the phenomenon has reached a “tipping point around the country.”