A report details how extremism and hate crimes are on the rise in Florida
The report's author said one reason hate groups are finding Florida attractive is the ability to spread propaganda year-round.
Extremist incidents in Florida involving racial hate and antisemitism rose by 71% between 2020 and 2022.
That's the conclusion of the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) "Hate in the Sunshine State" report.
The report shows that in 2019, there were 91 antisemitic incidents and 87 instances of white supremacist propaganda across the state. In 2021, the number rose to 190 antisemitic incidents and 186 reported encounters with white supremacist propaganda.
Ben Poppe, with the ADL's Center on Extremism, wrote the report. He said what makes the increase in Florida extremism stand out from the overall rise in hate across the country is that Florida extremists are now coordinating with each other.
And, Poppe said, they are even touting the Sunshine State as a great place to relocate your hate.
"They actually created Florida propaganda posters saying the state of hate needs you and advertising to other extremists to move to Florida,” Poppe said. “They're trying to make Florida a place where this kind of thing is acceptable and to center their activities in the state."
Among the key findings:
- From January 2020 to August 2022, the report documents more than 400 instances of white propaganda being distributed across the state.
- Of the 855 individuals arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, 90 (or 10.5%) are from Florida
- Crimes against Jews accounted for 80% of all religious-motivated incidents in 2020
The report details several hate groups — including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers — that are operating in Florida, along with a number of incidents that occurred across the state and in the greater Tampa Bay region.
In May 2021, antisemitic graffiti was painted on an outside wall at the Florida Holocaust Museum.
In addition, the report describes a demonstration in which 10 individuals associated with the neo-Nazi organization NatSoc Florida gathered on an overpass in Pinellas County, holding banners with white supremacist and antisemitic messages.
Poppe said one reason hate groups are finding Florida attractive is the ability to spread propaganda year-round.
The Tampa Bay Times reported this week that a popular white supremacist who goes by the nickname “Baked Alaska” moved his base of operations to Clearwater in the past year. Anthime Gionet's nickname comes from his home state of Alaska, and he's awaiting sentencing on charges from the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Poppe said the biggest danger from the rising number of white supremacist and antisemitic groups operating and communicating with each other isn’t violence, though that can happen.
The biggest threat, Poppe said, is acceptance.
"The primary dangers of the demonstrations and the leafletting is the normalization of the imagery that they're spreading as well as an attempt to desensitize the community to this sort of thing to make us think this is normal, or OK," Poppe said.