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Hotbed for hate groups; voting laws

NEO NAZI RALLY
John Raoux
/
AP
Supporters of the Nationalist Socialist Movement march through the streets of a predominantly black neighborhood during a neo-Nazi rally in Orlando.

This week, a small group of neo-Nazis marched in Orlando while anti-Semitic flyers appeared throughout Surfside, a Miami Beach neighborhood with a large Jewish community. Organizations that track hate groups in the U.S. say these kinds of incidences are on the rise.

More than a dozen people wearing Nazi symbols gathered Saturday and Sunday in Orlando. They shocked drivers when they unfurled Nazi flags at an overpass above Interstate 4. It quickly became a political issue when Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, sent a tweet suggesting the group could be political opponents.

“Do we even know if they are Nazis?” was part of what she wrote.

She then deleted the tweet, but not before it attracted plenty of criticism, which continued throughout the week, including from Palm Beach County Commissioner Greg Weiss, who is of Jewish descent.

Many elected leaders like U.S. Sen. Rick Scott denounced the Nazi salutes, anti-Jewish slurs and Nazi regalia. On Monday, the governor did not condemn the demonstrators. Instead, he criticized Democrats.

Meanwhile, bomb threats forced the temporary closure of historically Black colleges and universities. Also, on the first day of Black History Month, DeSantis asked the Florida Supreme Court whether Black congressman Al Lawson’s district was unconstitutional. Lawson responded that the governor is race-baiting to build political points with his base.

At the same time, a trial got underway this week over the state’s new voting law.

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Florida Roundup Associate Producer Katherine Hobbs can be reached at khobbs@wjct.org or on Twitter at @KatherineGHobbs.