Ron DeSantis

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‘DeSantis better veto that’: Florida’s effort to crack down on hate speech has antisemites up in arms

Far-right online can't believe Florida Republicans would pass a bill supporting Jewish people.


Claire Goforth


Posted on Apr 24, 2023

in Florida over the past several years, extremism and hate crimes have risen precipitously. A report by the Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitic and racist incidents increased over 70% in the state from 2020 to 2022.

Now, Florida lawmakers are trying to combat their state’s reputation as a welcoming place for hate. The legislature has proposed amending the state’s nuisance law to make it a crime to conduct many of the activities that hate groups have been using to harass marginalized groups and spread bigoted propaganda.

Right-wing extremists are apoplectic over the proposed law. White supremacists, antisemites, and other bigots are casting the attempt to crack down on hate crimes as an assault on their rights. Some clearly feel betrayed by the Republican-dominated government generally, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in particular.

The bill would amend Florida’s nuisance law to apply to a broad variety of conduct extremists are notorious for. These include distributing hateful fliers on private property; projecting images like swastikas onto property without permission; harassing people over religious or ethnic garb; interrupting religious services or funerals; and threatening or intimidating people on college campuses.

People who violate the law could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on certain factors. Throwing fliers on someone’s property in order to intimidate or threaten them is a misdemeanor under the proposed law. If that flier contains a “credible threat,” it becomes a felony.

These classifications also apply to harassing people over religious or ethnic garb; interrupting religious services or funerals; and displaying images onto property without permission. If it’s intimidating or threatening, it’s a misdemeanor; if their conduct constitutes a credible threat, it’s a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Violations of the law can be deemed a hate crime if it targets people on the basis of various protected classes, including race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.

Some have voiced concerns that the law won’t survive a challenge on First Amendment grounds. And while the bill’s sponsors have clearly said that it is intended to clamp down on hate speech by the likes of neo-Nazis and antisemites, liberals are also concerned that the law will be disproportionately applied to leftists whose viewpoints run afoul of the state’s conservative leadership.

No one is more concerned about the law than far-right extremists, however. They’ve been rallying against the legislation for weeks.

In early March, the Aryan Freedom Network urged its Telegram subscribers to contact a member of Congress to urge him to vote against the bill. The bill is before the Florida legislature, not Congress.

InfoWars’ Alex Jones claimed that the Florida GOP had declared “war on the First Amendment to combat antisemitism.” His comments singled out DeSantis.

“DeSantis better veto that, or I’m going to totally not support Ron DeSantis. That will just be a nail in the coffin,” Jones said.

Jon Minadeo of the antisemitic Goyim Defense League reposted a clip of Jones going off on the proposed legislation, and proclaimed, “It’s the war on whites. War on whites.”

QAnon influencer Isabella Rodriguez, aka Red Pill Babe, insisted that the bill only protects Jewish people.

In an Instagram reel, Rodriguez claimed that the legislature was attacking free speech “under the guise of protecting Jewish communities” and urged her followers to contact their representatives and demand they retract support for the bill.

While antisemitic incidents were the impetus for the bill, it protects all religions equally.

Like Jones, Islamophobe Laura Loomer went after DeSantis. Loomer is an ardent Trump supporter.

On Friday, Loomer tweeted that she had heard DeSantis intends to sign it when he visits Israel on the book tour many are likening to a soft presidential campaign launch. DeSantis signed a law designed to protect schoolchildren from antisemitism during a trip to Israel in 2019.

“The bill is highly unconstitutional and would make constitutionally protected speech a felony,” Loomer wrote. “There is no such thing as HATE SPEECH, but under the guise of ‘anti-Semitism,’ this bill will criminalize free speech and protest. As a Jewish woman and free speech absolutist, I 100% oppose this draconian bill.”

Others have also maligned DeSantis for what they view as his unacceptable support for Jewish people and causes.

“DeSantis could not be more for Jews!” wrote one. “…DeSantis is heavily entangled with Jewish interests and will most likely sign HB269—which will make all Jews a protected class of citizen in Florida and limit free speech for all.”

Florida representatives have thus far ignored such complaints. On Thursday, the state House unanimously approved the legislation. Florida Politics reports that a similar version of the bill has been introduced in the state Senate and currently awaits a hearing.

DeSantis has not definitively committed to signing the bill, though many expect him to do so. He could also simply let it take effect by declining to veto it.

Neither option would please the far-right.

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*First Published: Apr 24, 2023, 4:36 pm CDT