Florida has seen a significant increase in extremist-related incidents in the past two years, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League, given exclusively to Fox 4 Investigates and their E.W. Scripps partners in Florida.
The report, which found a 71% increase in incidents between 2020 and 2021, shows an interconnected web of white supremacist groups operating under darkness in the Sunshine State.
“Those numbers are always startling. We’ve seen a white supremacist network within the state continue to grow and add new groups and add new members,” said Ben Popp, an Investigative Researcher with the ADL.
In January, two teenagers vandalized the Bonita Springs home of Rabbi Mendy Greenberg.
The teens, who were later sentenced to probation, spray-painted the word “jews” on the driveway and smashed car windows.
The year earlier, there were 190 antisemitic incidents in Florida, according to the new ADL report.
“The large majority of incidents that we’ve seen is white supremacist propaganda,” Popp said.
“These people are printing flyers and putting stickers in public places so that they can spread their ideology that way.”
Popp says the increased popularity of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, along with a growing online web of hate groups working together has led to an explosion of extremist incidents in the state.
“They’ve been very effective in adding new groups and adding new members to the groups they already have,” Popp said.
Florida’s 190 antisemitic incidents last year make it the fourth worst in the country, according to the ADL, behind California, New York, and New Jersey.
“Florida is a state where we’ve seen an increasing normalization of hateful rhetoric,” said Sarah Emmons, ADL Florida Regional Director.
“When we see different demonstrations by these extremist groups or different activities, we’re not always seeing our elected and community leaders calling out and condemning that hatred in our community. Which, I think, sends a strong message to extremist groups and hateful individuals, that Florida is home to and a good place to incubate hateful ideology.”
In order to combat the rise of hate groups, the ADL says elected and community leaders need to be more vocal about condemning hatred.
The group is also pushing for more resources for local law enforcement to investigate hate crimes.
They also urge more anti-bias and holocaust education in schools.
“I think condemning hatred and encouraging our elected leaders to condemn hatred as well, is top of the list,” Emmons said.
“We have to create a culture where people feel welcome and where hateful ideology and where hateful speech is not accepted and normalized.”