ORLANDO, Fla. (WESH) — Law enforcement and politicians are speaking out after multiple anti-Semitic rallies were seen in Central Florida over the weekend.
At least two gatherings were reported.
According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were called to the area of Alafaya Trail and Waterford Lakes Parkway around noon Saturday, where a group of about 20 demonstrators had gathered.
“The group, assembled on public property, was reported by witnesses to be wearing clothing with ‘Nazi’ insignia and yelling profanities and anti-Semitic slurs at vehicles passing by,” a release from OCSO stated. “At one point, a physical fight ensued between a passerby and several of the demonstrators.”
According to OCSO, the group left the area and no arrests were made.
“The Orange County Sheriff’s Office deplores hate speech in any form, but people have the First Amendment right to demonstrate,” a release stated.
A second gathering was reported at the Daryl Carter Parkway overpass on I-4.
Pictures on social media show an anti-Semitic banner and swastika displayed on the overpass.
According to Florida Highway Patrol, FHP troopers disbanded the gathering.
“It is against the law to obstruct highway traffic or hang signs on the overpasses and violators will be prosecuted,” the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles tweeted.
Multiple Central Florida officials posted on social media condemning the gatherings.
Mayor Buddy Dyer tweeted: “Anti-Semitism and hatred are not welcome in this community. Despite displays of hate in Central Florida this weekend, our collective commitment to building an inclusive, compassionate community for all is stronger than ever.”
Rep. Val Demmings wrote: “Yesterday neo-Nazis rallied in Orlando. But America beat their disturbing ideology before and we’ll do it again. As a police commander I saw similar rallies, and I also saw that for every Nazi there were a hundred Floridians there to stand up for what’s right.”
Sen. Rick Scott tweeted: “The hateful & anti-Semitic demonstrations reported in Florida today have no place in our state. Across America, we’ve seen a heartbreaking & disgusting rise in hate like this. We must always condemn it & continue to stand strongly with our Jewish communities.”
Rep. Anna Eskamani called on “every political leader in Florida to condemn” the gatherings.
Some asked why Gov. Ron DeSantis had not released a statement condemning the rallies.
DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw responded: “Gov. Ron DeSantis has ALWAYS condemned anti-Semitic attacks & hatred, and he always will. To suggest otherwise is just plain wrong. I am confident that Florida law enforcement will respond appropriately and justice will be served to any protester who violates the law.”
Pushaw said those calling on DeSantis to condemn the rallies aren’t coming from a place of good faith.
“Democrat politicians have falsely insinuated all weekend that the Governor’s policies are somehow responsible for the protest with Nazi symbols,” she wrote. “These aren’t ‘genuine questions.’ It’s a dirty political smear attempt, and people who say things like this aren’t fooling anyone. Not anymore.”