ORLANDO, Fla. – Members of the local Jewish community are feeling scared and concerned after a weekend of antisemitic demonstrations in the Orlando area.
The first happened at Alafaya Trail and Waterford Lakes Parkway, outside a shopping plaza near the University of Central Florida. The demonstrators had assembled on public property, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
A viewer sent News 13 a video showing more than 15 people gathered, with several wearing Nazi garb. The video shows people shouting slurs, waving Nazi flags and holding anti-Semitic signs.
At one point, a physical fight ensued between a passerby and several of the demonstrators, according to the sheriff’s office. No arrests were made and the group left the area.
“The Orange County Sheriff’s Office deplores hate speech in any form, but people have the First Amendment right to demonstrate,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
The second demonstration happened Sunday on the side of the Daryl Carter Parkway overpass, above I-4. Pictures and videos circulating on social media show more than a dozen people had gathered there, hanging a few signs and a Nazi flag from the fence.
Florida Highway Patrol responded and told the demonstrators it’s against the law to put up a sign that could potentially fall down into traffic, according to a spokesperson for the department. The group complied in taking them down.
Shea Rubenstein, a Jewish man visiting the attractions area from New York City, says he witnessed Sunday’s demonstration while he was in the car with his family.
“I see people dressed up in the uniform and then another sign next to it that says, ‘Vax the Jews,’ and obviously that hit home immediately,” he told News 13. “Obviously, they’re only advocating to murder Jewish people. It cannot be misconstrued for anything else.”
“It’s disgusting, it’s horrifying,” said Keith Dvorchik, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando.
He says anti-Semitic acts have been on the rise over the past few months in both Central Florida and nationwide. “I think it’s important that we get together as a community and stand against hatred, because that’s where everything comes from,” he explained. “It all comes from hate. And hate’s not acceptable.”