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March 15, 2023 9:47 am

‘Nazis Are Not Welcome in Florida’: State Bill on Antisemitic Crimes Would Give Five Year Prison Sentences to Offenders


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

GDL activists displaying antisemitic banners at the Daytona500 speedway race in Florida. Photo: Daytona Beach Police Dept.

Lawmakers in Florida are considering a bill that would create some of the harshest criminal penalties in the country for convicted antisemites.

Proposed by Rep. Mike Caruso (R) and Rep. Randy Fine (R) in January, House Bill 269 is a response to a rise in antisemitic incidents in Florida, which, according to the Anti-Defamation League, have increased precipitously since 2019.

If passed, such conduct would be classified as a third degree felony and penalized with up to five years in prison, probation, and a $5,000 fine. House Bill 269’s provision also addresses acts exhibiting racial animus. The bill is now being examined by the Florida House’s judiciary committee and justice appropriations committee.

On Tuesday, Fine told The Algemeiner that the bill sends a clear message to neo-Nazis living in the state.

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“Nazis are not welcome in Florida,” he said. “The behavior they’re using to terrorize, intimidate, and assault Jewish Floridians is going to come to an end.”

Fine explained that the outbreak of antisemitic incidents in Florida disturbed him especially. He is the state’s only Jewish Republican legislator.

“We have actual Nazis who have proudly taken up residence in Florida,” he added. “The things that they are doing, all of which I find disgusting, are reprehensible, and we are going to make them felonies.”

Antisemitism in Florida, a state home to the United States’ third-largest Jewish community, has reached concerning levels, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism (COE) said in a report published in September. According to COE’s data, antisemitic incidents in the state have increased 300% since 2012 and that since 2020, 80% of all hate crimes based on religion have targeted Jews.

Conspiracy mongering and vast networks of white nationalist extremist groups are driving the trend, the ADL found.

The report also identified new white supremacist groups, including “White Lives Matter” and “NatSoc Florida,” and revealed strategies that already established groups like Oath Keepers and Proud Boys are using to propagate their message. Some of these groups, the report continued, are “disrupting school board meetings and even running for political office.”

Others, like the Black Hebrew Israelites, the Nation of Islam, and the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, also have chapters in Florida. Differences in ideology distinguish them, but all promote conspiracy theories and antisemitism. The Black Hebrew Israelites and Nation of Islam, for example, regularly describe Jews as the “Synagogue of Satan.”

The report also detailed several antisemitic incidents, including the detonation of fireworks in Chabad center’s mailbox, swastika graffiti used in the vandalism of a business, and the heckling of a Jewish family while they walked home from synagogue.

“Free Palestine” and “F*** the Jews,” the hecklers said.

ADL’s Center of Extremism recommended a “whole-of-society approach” to fighting the forces of hate and extremism in which community and elected leaders, legislation and law enforcement combine to eradicate them.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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