A group of lawmakers wants to come down harder on people who commit hate crimes. This follows an increase in anti-semitic acts across Florida.
We’ve seen them in Southwest Florida. Anti-Semitic flyers appeared in neighborhoods, and a rabbi was targeted with vandalism.
State representatives want to make sure the rise in Anti-Semitic acts comes to an end and that everyone knows these will not be tolerated nor taken lightly.
“We’ve seen Jewish moms and their kids being walking to school being harassed and taunted and threatened just for walking to school. We’ve seen stories of news from hateful banners being hung from overpasses on highways,” said State Representative Mike Carusso.
Some of it is in Southwest Florida.
“We’ve had congregants who have found fliers at the end of their driveways or on their cars, who have experienced personal acts of anti-Semitism directed against them. And, of course, it’s concerning and worrying,” said Nicole Luna, a rabbi at Temple Beth El in Fort Myers.
Luna says a new Florida bill that categorizes anti-Semitic acts as a hate crime doesn’t stop the concern or the worry, but it helps.
“Even hateful words are, are harmful to others, and make people live with constant fear. And I hope this bill will lower the volume of speech around this issue and others,” said Marc Sac, Rabbi at Temple Judea.
“You have the right to be an idiot in the United States. We have the first amendment doesn’t mean you’re an idiot if you exercise the first amendment, but you have the right to be a nazi, but you do not have the right to be a nazi and engage in criminal conduct, whether it is littering whether it is trespassing, whether it is assault,” said State Representative Randy Fine.
When these acts happen, Sack is happy with the response from state lawmakers. “The more that we can build a strong, strong sense of community. The more comfortable, the healthier will Fort Myers and this part of town be”
In Florida, there is no actual hate crime statute. Instead, if there is a hate element to a crime, then the state can elevate the charge and increase the punishment.
The proposed bill makes the penalty for these hate crimes a third-degree felony.