The state of Florida actually arrested an alleged neo-Nazi this week on charges relating to those stomach-turning antisemitic demonstrations that keep happening in Orlando.
Great. Now can the governor give a speech denouncing neo-Nazis?
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said a 48-year-old Cape Canaveral man named Jason James Brown was part of a group of camouflage-wearing hatemongers who hung a swastika flag, along with racist and white-power signs, off a bridge so that eastbound Interstate 4 drivers could see them. Three other people are still being sought by FDLE.
Amazingly enough, the FDLE was able to charge Brown with violating a law passed by the Florida Legislature this year and signed by none other than Gov. Ron DeSantis. Called the “public nuisances” law, the measure makes it illegal to intentionally display or project messages on a property without written consent.
DeSantis had to do something: He’s running for president, and antisemitic incidents have more than doubled in Florida since 2020, according to the Anti-Defamation League. That DeSantis signed the bill during a trip to Jerusalem about three weeks before he announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination was no coincidence.
Florida had the fourth-highest number of such incidents in the country in 2022. The string of Orlando demonstrations has been an assault on human decency. Horrendous, vast swastikas have been projected onto the sides of buildings in Jacksonville and West Palm Beach. Flyers with antisemitic propaganda have been dumped on lawns in Florida communities.
In Tampa last summer, neo-Nazis waved flags with swastikas and white-supremacist SS bolts outside a major Republican conference, Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit. Horrifyingly, among the placards with antisemitic slurs, someone unfurled a “DeSantis Country” flag.
In July, DeSantis’ presidential campaign fired a staffer who reportedly either made or retweeted a video that included Nazi imagery superimposed onto the Florida governor’s face.
Earlier this month outside Disney World, antisemitic groups including the one Brown is allegedly a member of — something called the “Order of the Black Sun” — performed Hitler salutes and shouted hateful things about Jews.
And in late August, a white gunman with a swastika-emblazoned assault-style rifle killed three Black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville.
Yes, it’s good that the Legislature passed this bill and DeSantis signed it. Even better: The law is being used by diligent members of the law enforcement community to push back on anti-semitism. FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass on Wednesday thanked DeSantis “for the signing of HB 269, giving us the tools to arrest this hate-filled radical.” Was it deployed in this moment for political purposes, as DeSantis struggles against Donald Trump for the GOP nomination? Who knows. At least it was deployed.
But it’s no surprise that racists and neo-Nazis and every other hate-filled lowlife have seen this moment, with DeSantis at the helm, as an opening in Florida. And it’ll take a lot more than one arrest to stop it.
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