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Florida House Committee advances bill aimed at combating messages of hate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A bill aimed at cracking down on antisemitic hate speech in Florida cleared its second House committee Wednesday morning.

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The bill is similar to city ordinance recently adopted in Jacksonville.

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Both make it illegal to project any messages or images on private and governmental buildings without permission like the one projected here on the CSX building earlier this year, but the state legislation goes even further and covers a wide array of hate speech.

Tim Wallace lives in the Grove Park neighborhood in Duval County.

We spoke with him last July after antisemitic fliers were dumped on driveways on his street.

Now he tells us, it’s happened at least three times over the past year.

“I don’t think anybody in Jacksonville needs to see that kind of garbage,” Wallace said.

The new legislation moving in the Florida Capitol aims to put an end to the laser projected messages of hate seen on TIAA Bank Field and the CSX building in downtown Jax, as well as the antisemitic fliers.

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The bill, co-sponsored by State Representative Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), makes it a 3rd degree felony to dump litter with messages of intimidating or threatening religious or ethnic animus on private residential properties.

“Why do they throw fliers in driveways? Why don’t they hand them out on the street corner? You know why? Someone like Rep. Snyder would punch them in the face. That’s why. They do that because they’re cowards,” Fine said.

There are additional penalties for threatening people on college campuses, near religious institutions and for wearing religious clothing.

Fine argued the displays and demonstrations of hate seen around the state aren’t about free speech at all.

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“Guess what? None of them are here. Why? Because they’re not interested in speech. They’re interested in scaring children. They’re interested in scaring Rabbis. They’re interested in scaring old people,” Fine said.

As for Wallace, he’s optimistic the legislation could put an end to the hateful garbage that has plagued his neighborhood for months.

“I think if they know that the law is going to be enforced, that’s another thing is whether or not it will be enforced, and it should cut back on it tremendously and man, I’d love to see that happen,” Wallace said.

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While the bill passed its second House committee with near-unanimous support, one Democratic lawmaker did vote no, arguing the bill doesn’t go far enough to address messages of hate based on race.