Florida legislators support a bill to make hate speech fliers a hate crime

Racist flyers in Spring neighborhoods

TALLAHASEE, FLA. – An anti-hate speech bill is on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis office.

House Bill 269 will make it a hate crime to hand out flyers containing hateful or discriminatory messages onto private property. The Florida Senate unanimously approved the bill Tuesday morning.

If Gov. DeSantis signs HB 269 into law, distributing flyers or any material with intention to intimidate, threaten, or harass people based on religion or ethnicity would be considered a hate crime under this bill.

Last year, News4Jax reported on multiple hate speech flyers that were found inside of neighborhoods across the city, including in the Riverbrook at the Glen Kernan neighborhood.

James Martin lived in there for 27 years and hopes the bill will make people think twice before dropping hate speech flyers in his community.

“We don’t welcome any of that here. It’s kind of hard to understand. I can’t understand put it that way. People are people… what’s wrong with that you know?” said James Martin.

Mark Moorse also lives in Glen Kernan and supports the bill.

“I just don’t really care much for it and all the stuff that has been going on downtown and the graffiti, the stadium, everything along those lines. It’s not in my nature to appreciate anything like that,” said Mark Moorse.

The Anti-Defamation League says there have been more than 400 instances of white supremacist propaganda being distributed in Florida – from Jan. 2020 to Aug. 2022.

Jacksonville has seen other anti-Semitic incidents as well – such as when a swastika was projected on the side of the CSX building in downtown Jacksonville during a Jaguars game earlier this year.

Adam Chaskin with the Jewish Community Alliance says passing the bill is the first step to reducing hate crimes in Florida.

“There’s definitely an uneasiness in not just in the Jewish community but I think in a lot of different communities. I think it is sending a message not just to Jacksonville but to the whole state that this is not acceptable,” said Adam Chaskin.

Under the law, leaving hateful messages would be a third-degree felony in Florida.

About the Author:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.