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‘This is pure, pure, pure evil:’ Sheriff Chitwood responds to recent wave of anti-Semitism

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, outraged by growing anti-Semitism, held a press conference responding to the recent, hateful acts.

“These scumbags came to the wrong county. We are not going to tolerate this,” Chitwood said “This is not about free speech, this is about violence.”

Chitwood was joined by law enforcement as well as community and religious leaders who were there to discuss a new bill aimed to enhance criminal penalties for extremists.

The bill enhances criminal penalties for handing out materials that lead to littering and projecting words on private property - making those things felonies -- punishable by up to five years in prison.

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Channel 9 spoke with one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Randy Fine.

Fine said the bill doesn’t impact free speech and it’s the anti-Semitic actions he and others say they want this bill to take care of.

“I think we’re just seeing a really big upswing in anti-Semitism. Once a month, became once a week, became daily,” Fine said. “You don’t have the right to litter in someone’s yard, you don’t have the right to graffiti someone’s building.”

According to fine, the bill doesn’t tread on what someone wants to say.

“There’s nothing in our bill that deals with speech. You can walk down the street, you can wave the sign, you can chant whatever you want,” Fine said.

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If passed the bill would:

  • Prohibit the distribution of certain materials that lead to littering.
  • Prohibits stalking of certain individuals.
  • Removes minimum damage requirement for violations.
  • Prohibits projection of certain images onto buildings or other property without permission.
  • It would require certain violations to be reported as hate crimes.

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“It’s our job to expose them and to let them know that if they scare people if they attack people if they vandalize their homes, they’re going to spend 5 years in prison.” Fine added

Lawmakers expect that bill to pass -- fast. It could be law as soon as October.

On Monday, Chitwood suggested legislators make it law upon signing.

“This is not the first amendment, this is pure, pure, pure evil,” Chitwood said.

Stop anti-Semitism, a national organization, told Channel 9 that the hateful demonstrations this bill would criminalize have directly resulted in violence against Jews, and passing it would help law enforcement hold these groups accountable.

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