New law could help as Volusia sheriff faces possible hate group activity this weekend

New law could help as Volusia sheriff faces possible hate group activity this weekend

More hate-speech flyers could be dumped on Volusia County properties this weekend, but Sheriff Mike Chitwood said a new law gave him more power to deal with such activity.

Chitwood received information from the Anti-Defamation League that neo-Nazis are planning a statewide effort to distribute flyers to coincide with the Juneteenth holiday weekend, which celebrates the emancipation of enslaved Black people in the US

Hate groups, one in particular, have targeted Volusia County for months with antisemitic literature dumped on lawns and even windshields of cars.

Chitwood said he expects people to distribute flyers when it’s dark.

The Volusia Sheriff's Office

The Volusia Sheriff’s Office “Scumbag Eradication Team” T-shirt. An antisemitic group is demanding that Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood stop tweeting about the shirt.

“They’re a bunch of cowards. … They’re trying to instill fear. They’re trying to recruit people into believing the way they think,” Chitwood said.

He said he believes hate groups are looking for a reason to file a lawsuit “because their four-hour podcast is not generating a lot of money.”

While the county has experienced this activity before, the context will be different.

Florida lawmakers passed the “Public Nuisance” bill, House Bill 269, which makes it a hate crime and a felony to spread antisemitic propaganda on private property if it contains a credible threat. It went into effect on May 1.

The law classifies the offense as a first-degree misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether a “credible threat” is included ― that means the threat would cause someone to fear for his or her safety, or the safety of a family member or a close associate, and the person making the threat appear to have the ability to go through with it.

The law prohibits anyone from “intentionally dumping litter onto private property for the purpose of intimidating or threatening the owner, resident, or invitee of such property.”

It also prohibits:

  • Knowingly and intentionally displaying or projecting, “using any medium, an image onto a building, structure, or other property without the written consent of the owner of the building, structure, or property.”

  • Willfully and maliciously interrupting or disturbing “any school or any assembly of people met for the worship of God, any assembly of people met for the purpose of acknowledging the death of an individual.

The new law would have provided grounds for an arrest in previous incidents, Chitwood said.

Tyler Meyer arrives in Daytona Beach from San Diego.  Meyer allegedly posted on an online forum that he was going to kill Sheriff Mike Chitwood, which earned him a felony charge.  Four people have been arrested for threats against the sheriff.

Tyler Meyer arrives in Daytona Beach from San Diego. Meyer allegedly posted on an online forum that he was going to kill Sheriff Mike Chitwood, which earned him a felony charge. Four people have been arrested for threats against the sheriff.

“If we were to catch them.”

DeSantis signs ‘Public Nuisances’ bill: How the litter-related legislation affects hate crimes

The sheriff’s office is asking people to be vigilantes, pay attention to their home surveillance systems and contact the sheriff’s office if they see any potentially illegal activity, he said.

Communities across Volusia County have already dealt with hate speech.

People connected to the “Goyim Defense League,” an anti-Jewish hate group, spread antisemitic propaganda in February in Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach. People with their faces hidden by clothing held up banners on a pedestrian bridge over International Speedway Boulevard and projected hate speech onto the Daytona International Speedway.

In April, Chitwood described another incident in DeBary and how widespread the issue has become.

“Probably 80 of those pamphlets were dropped with ‘Death to the Jews,’ ‘Hitler was right,’ preaching all this stuff that we have seen. So now basically I think every city in Volusia County has been hit by these pamphlets,” he said.

Chitwood has received death threats for calling out hate groups and their members. Four men have been arrested and charged after threatening his life.

The most recent arrest came Sunday when Calgary, Alberta, police arrested Tony Stromberg. Police said he “made repeated threats over Twitter, via email, and in phone calls to sheriff’s office employees.”

The National Socialist Movement applied for a permit to protest Chitwood at Ormond Beach City Hall but was denied. Instead, more than 30 counterprotesters showed up to support the Jewish community and Chitwood.

― Reporter Katie Kustura contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: More hate-group fliers expected in Volusia over Juneteenth weekend

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