Local residents hope new bill will help decrease anti-semitic flyers distributed across Mandarin, Orange Park neighborhoods

HB 269 proposes making the offense a third-degree felony

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Residents in the Mandarin community who found flyers containing anti-Semitic speech on their lawns are wishing that there was current legislation in place to stop the recent string of events.

A recently filed bill in Florida aims to make certain anti-Semitic acts a hate crime, which would make the distribution of anti-Semitic material a third-degree felony.

Some neighbors in the Plantation South neighborhood told News4JAX that they believe passing the law would help cut down on hate and make perpetrators think twice.

Michael Boylan said he received countless phone calls concerning the letters left on people’s driveways. Similar flyers were also spotted in Orange Park.

The Anti-Defamation League said Florida has seen a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents.

From 2020 to 2021, the rate increased by 50%.

Recently multiple state representatives wanted to do something to combat this increase and filed House Bill 269 in early January. If passed, it would prohibit the distribution of certain materials that leads to littering, require that certain violations be reported as hate crimes and make it a third-degree felony to distribute material with “evidence of religious or ethnic animus.”

Boylan said he thinks these measures will help neighborhoods such as his in the future.

Mariam Feist with the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida said a law like this could help send a strong message that Florida doesn’t tolerate hate.

“This is going to make it much harder for those hate groups and those individuals to perpetuate their message. So I applaud state-wide laws,” Feist said. “If and when you see this material please do not take pictures of it and promote it on social media. Because what happens is, it broadens their platform.”

Feist said it’s important to contact law enforcement so they can keep track of it.

“They track it for two different reasons. The ADL is really looking at keeping a record of hate speech whether it be anti-Semitic or any other kind. The FBI and law enforcement are tracking it for any criminal activity,” Feist said.

About the Author:

Khalil Maycock joined the News4JAX team in November 2022 after reporting in Des Moines, IA.