Florida saw a sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents last year, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League, the New York-based organization that tracks anti-Semitic incidents and other extremist activity across the country.
The state saw a 50% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2021 compared to the year before, and Florida had the third most anti-Semitic incidents of any state in the country, behind only New York and California, according to the report. Nationally, 2021 saw a 34% increase in anti-Semitic incidents across the country.
The Anti-Defamation League found that Florida is home to an overlapping network of white supremacists and anti-Semitic groups responsible for organizing numerous rallies and distributing hateful propaganda. All told, the League’s Center on Extremism found more than 400 instances of white supremacist propaganda being distributed between January 2020 and August 2022.
The report also notes that Florida is home to the most people charged in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection, including members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.
The report highlights national anti-Semitic groups, such as the Goyim Defense League, which has a Florida presence and has organized events in Florida, as well as groups such as the National Socialist Movement — an openly pro-Hitler group — that is led by a Florida man, Burt Colucci, of Kissimmee.
The groups organized numerous rallies throughout the year, including demonstrations outside the conservative group Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit in Tampa in July 2022, a May 2022 protest outside Walt Disney World and a February demonstration outside the Daytona 400. The groups displayed signs with anti-Semitic slogans and Nazi imagery, such as swastikas, along with anti-LGBTQ and racist messages.
At a January 2022 rally in Orlando near the University of Central Florida campus, three demonstrators, including Colucci, were charged with assault after allegedly attacking a Jewish student and stealing the phone he was using to record them. The three men are scheduled to go to trial at the end of October.
The Goyim Defense League, meanwhile, led a 15-day anti-Semitic tour in Central and South Florida in May 2021, in which the group demonstrated outside Jewish institutions and drove around a van covered in anti-Semitic slurs. Dominic Di Giorgio, a Port St. Lucie member of the group who helped it establish its online presence, drove five other Florida members on a similar “tour” of southeastern Texas later that year during which Di Giorgio was arrested and charged with using a device that allowed him to flip between two different license plates on his van.
The report notes that 11 Florida members of the Proud Boys were among those arrested in connection with the storming of the Capitol, though the group’s then-leader, Enrique Tarrio, of Miami, didn’t participate because he had been arrested two days earlier in connection with the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a church in Washington. Tarrio nevertheless faces charges of seditious conspiracy for his alleged role in planning the assault on the Capitol.
Tarrio, who has reportedly been a government informant in the past, indicated earlier this year to the Miami New Times that he was stepping down from leadership of the group and would start a new organization. Several members of the Proud Boys hold seats on the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee.
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At least seven members of the Oath Keepers arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 attack are Florida residents. A leak of data from the group showed thousands of Florida residents had signed up for the organization, which specifically targets current and former members of the military and law enforcement for membership, though it isn’t clear how many of those people are active members and still live in Florida.