WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The past couple of years has seen a significant increase in extremist-related incidents both nationwide and in Florida, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.
The organization said these incidents have been driven, in part, by widespread disinformation and conspiracy theories that have energized extremists and fueled antisemitism.
This has resulted in unrest and violence that included the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol last year and an increase in white supremacist activity and hate crimes.
READ THE FULL REPORT BELOW:
From January 2020 to August 2022, the ADL said they recorded more than 400 instances of white supremacist propaganda distribution in Florida.
"We know how quickly this bias and behavior can escalate into violence. We know that from history," Sarah Emmons with the Anti-Defamation League said. "It's critically important we stop this where it's at now, so this does not escalate into future violence."
The organization's report said that the overwhelming majority of these incidents involved the white supremacist groups Patriot Front and the New Jersey European Heritage Association.
The report outlines that there are several other hate groups either based in or have a presence in Florida including NSDAP, Sunshine State Nationalists, NatSoc Florida, White Lives Matter, American First/Groyper Movement, Endangered Souls and Florida Nationalists.
Ninety-five of these incidents included antisemitic language or symbols, targeted Jewish institutions, or both, the report said.
The study found that hate crimes continued to rise in Florida over the last several years.
"Antisemitism and extremism have been promulgated by groups of varied political and ideological backgrounds," the report said.
According to the most recent data from the FBI's 2020 Hate Crime Statistics report, 56.1% of nationally reported religion-based hate crimes in 2020 targeted the Jewish community.
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In Florida, hate crimes against Jews accounted for 80% of the religiously motivated incidents in 2020, and antisemitic hate crimes have risen 300% since 2012.
According to data compiled by the George Washington University Program on Extremism, of the 855 people charged in relation to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, 90 hail from the state of Florida — the largest number of any state.
"We are seeing new extremist groups pop up over the past few years, and one thing the report speaks to is the interconnectedness of these white supremacist extremist groups," Emmons said.
Wellington Rabbi Andrew Rosenkranz said the findings are important.
"I don’t know if it surprises me as much as it does give me a tremendous amount of worry and anxiety," Rosenkranz said. "These kinds of things are meant to scare, to try and instill fear. They want people to be afraid. That’s the mindset of the person who leaves a pamphlet on somebody's doorstep or makes an antisemitic remark online."
ADL Florida recommended the following steps to combat extremism:
1. CONDEMN HATRED:
Elected officials and community leaders must all strongly and consistently condemn antisemitism and extremism, whenever and wherever it occurs.
2. PASS AND ENFORCE LEGISLATION TO PROTECT MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES:
Our leaders must pass and enforce legislation, including a comprehensive hate crimes bill and a state Non-Profit Security Grant Program.
3. PROTECT FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS:
Both elected leaders and community members must advocate for election systems that are accessible to all voters and are protected from violence.
4. DISRUPT HATE AND EXTREMISM THROUGH APPROPRIATE LAW ENFORCEMENT MEASURES:
Law enforcement agencies should dedicate resources to hate crimes units, and receive training on how to recognize and document hate crimes, antisemitic incidents, and other bias-motivated incidents – training that ADL can provide.
5. PRIORITIZE ANTI-BIAS AND HOLOCAUST EDUCATION:
Students need to be empowered to develop both an accurate understanding of historical events, such as the Holocaust, and be engaged in purposeful opportunities to learn about and explore bias with a goal of helping them become productive citizens.