JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Anti-Semitic messages seen across downtown Jacksonville Saturday night created a wave of statements from local leaders and organizations condemning the message.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said it is aware of the displays and has been looking into the actions along with the FBI Jacksonville office.
“At the time, the Sheriff’s office has not identified any crimes having been committed; the comments displayed do not include any type of threat and are protected by the First Amendment.”
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FBI Jacksonville said, “No matter how abhorrent or repulsive, expressing one’s views is protected by the First Amendment and not a crime by itself, but true threats are not protected speech. When a threat or actual violence targets someone based on their race, religion, national origin, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability, it meets the criteria of a federal hate crime.”
You can read both agency’s full statements here.
A witness at the Florida Theater for the Rocky Horror Picture Show said it was a group of about six people projecting the message. He saw them outside displaying it onto the 11 East building downtown before heading towards the stadium after the Georgia-Florida game.
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“Certain crowds from the Rocky show start coming through and they start butting heads,” he said. “It was just vile stuff that they were yelling and it just wasn’t good.”
He was at the show with his family. “It was terror for them and a lot of the other people that were there.”
While there is no criminal investigation at this point, organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and American Jewish Committee are still concerned these acts could turn to violence.
“When this rhetoric is out there, saying it’s okay to say this thing — it’s easier to take it one step farther again,” said Rachel Carroll Rivas, the interim deputy director of research and analysis for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, said.
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“It increases the likelihood that others use this type of language, and it increases the anxiety of the Jewish community and community as a whole,” said Dov Wilker with the American Jewish Committee.
He said they’ve noticed an increase in antisemitic messaging both in-person and online.
The Anti-Defamation League tracks cases of antisemitism, including harassment, vandalism, and assault
The organization said incidents are up nationwide and in Florida. Cases have more than doubled in the past five years from 76 in 2018 to 190 in 2021. There have been 138 incidents so far this year. In Jacksonville, incidents have climbed from 2 in 2018 to 11 in 2022.
ADL said extremist groups, including NatSoc Florida, or NSF, have ramped up messaging since July.
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