‘Nazis are not welcome in Florida’: Gov. Ron DeSantis signs antisemitism bill

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs bill cracking down on antisemitism into law during visit to Jerusalem.

By Andrew Bernard, The Algemeiner

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed a bill described by one of its co-sponsors as “the strongest antisemitism bill in the United States.”

DeSantis signed the bill, HB 269, from Jerusalem’s Museum of Tolerance as part of an international trade mission that has included visits to Japan, South Korea and Israel, and that will conclude in the United Kingdom.

Described as a counter to “public nuisances,” the bill specifically prohibits certain forms of littering, harassment or intimidation based on religious heritage, the projection of images onto buildings without the owner’s permission, and the malicious disruption of a school or religious assembly.

Many of these “nuisances” are used as tactics by the so-called “Goyim Defense League” of neo-Nazis and other hate groups that have conducted campaigns of antisemitic leaflet littering, used projectors to superimpose antisemitic messages on buildings, and hung neo-Nazi banners on highway overpasses.

Speaking at press conference before the signing on Thursday, DeSantis emphasized the difference between protected speech under the First Amendment and the bigoted harassment that HB 269 is intended to counter.

“In the United States, you have a constitutionally protected right to say whatever you want, no matter how distasteful it is, no matter how hateful it is,” DeSantis said. “But you don’t have a right to threaten people, you don’t have a right to harass people, you don’t have a right to intimidate somebody, particularly on the basis of somebody’s religious affiliation.”

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One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Randy Fine (R), told The Algemeiner in March that he was spurred to action by the outbreak of antisemitic activity in Florida.

“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, who traveled to Israel for the signing, wrote on Twitter Thursday that HB 269 was “the strongest antisemitism bill in the United States.”

“To Florida’s Nazi thugs, I have news: attack Jews on their property and you’re going to prison,” he said.

Kenneth L. Marcus, the founder and chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which provided constitutional and legal analysis to Florida’s Jewish community in support of the bill, welcomed the signing of the legislation on Thursday.

“We are now seeing a resurgence of right-wing hate crimes in the streets, just as we are seeing left-wing antisemitism growing on the campuses,” Marcus said. “All forms of antisemitism must be fought, through all available legal means, and we are pleased that this legislation will provide us with important additional tools to do so in Florida, as we continue to fight this scourge throughout the country.”

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Antisemitic incidents in the United States increased 36 percent in 2022, according to an annual audit issued by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in March.

The ADL recorded 3,697 incidents — ten per day — across the US, the highest ever since the group began track them in 1979. Incidents of harassment, vandalism, and assault all spiked by double digits and occurred most frequently in New York, California, New Jersey, Florida, and Texas, which accounted for 54 percent of the ADL’s data. New York had the most, with 580 incidents. One incident resulted in a fatality.