On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) traveled to a foreign country to officially endorse new legislation, HB 269, which criminalizes speech categorized as “harassment” or “intimidation” and assigns a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
This law, signed by DeSantis in Jerusalem, is being promoted as a measure to address anti-Semitism by its supporters.
Laura Loomer, a Jewish journalist, strongly disagrees with the argument that this law is necessary to combat anti-Semitism in Florida. Instead, Loomer criticizes it as one of the most severe and restrictive measures against free speech she has encountered in her lifetime.
This has nothing to do with Jews. I’m Jewish and I oppose your unconstitutional, anti-free speech legislation that is going to send Floridians to jail for their constitutionally protected speech.
Offensive speech like “anti semitism” is still protected speech. Shouldn’t you… https://t.co/0qu8yQrtfW
— Laura Loomer (@LauraLoomer) April 28, 2023
Under this law, it is considered a felony hate crime to distribute literature door-to-door if the recipient perceives it as harassment or intimidation, even if the material is not inherently threatening.
According to political commentator Scott Greer, even seemingly harmless messages like “Make America Great Again” or “It’s Okay to be White” could potentially be labeled as felony hate speech under the loosely worded provisions of this hate crime law.
Supporters of the measure have been explicit in their intention to criminalize freedom of speech through the implementation of this new law.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said, “If you go on private property, which is what we’re seeing, and drop off hateful literature targeting someone for their religion, it’s a felony. If you get up in somebody’s face with a bullhorn and start screaming anti-Semitic remarks to them, it’s felony stalking. So we’re really looking forward to this.”
Chitwood also emphasized that this law is intended to target President Trump and insinuated that his supporters are affiliated with hate groups, a narrative often propagated by left-leaning organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
According to Andrew Torba, the founder of Gab, Gov. DeSantis’ endorsement of HB 269 and his decision to sign the law in a foreign country indicate that he does not prioritize an “America First” approach to leadership.
Torba said, “The fact that Gov. DeSantis flew to a foreign country to sign both of these bills is absurd. Florida is a state in the United States, and its laws should be signed within the state’s borders. The reality that Gov. DeSantis chose to sign these bills in Israel, a foreign country, raises serious questions about his priorities and commitment to upholding the Constitution for the citizens of the United States and his state of Florida.”
He continued, “We must be willing to engage in open dialogue with those who hold different views and to stand up for our rights even when it is uncomfortable or unpopular to do so.”