Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood had harsh words for a group spreading antisemitic messages in the Florida community.
“You came to the wrong county. I stand with my Jewish friends, and I’m honored to be on your hit list. It’s an honor to be sought after by a bunch of punk thugs like you,” Chitwood said after an antisemitic group passed out flyers in county neighborhoods and held hate-filled banners over a pedestrian overpass.
The group, kept anonymous, was also responsible for projecting antisemitic messages at the Daytona International Speedway.
Now, the group is targeting Chitwood himself.
“The reason behind this press conference today is when you’re trying to crush a radical group of cowardly scumbags, unity and sunshine destroy it,” Chitwood said. “The unity part is what you’re going to see in this room right now.”
Officials said the group’s speech is protected by the First Amendment, but they are keeping an eye out for criminal conduct.
“This is nothing but pure, pure, pure evil … And you came to the wrong county,” Chitwood decried.
Chitwood added that the sheriff’s office is looking to track down the individuals responsible for displaying the hateful messages.
State lawmakers also plan to address hate crimes in a bill during the upcoming legislative session that will enhance some misdemeanors to the level of a felony.
“If you graffiti a building, it is a crime now, but if your motivation is hate, it will be a third-degree felony, and you will spend five years in prison,” State Representative Randy Fine said.
The bill also intends to make the act of passing out “hate-filled flyers” and banners an enhanced form of littering that may be classed as a hate crime.
Volusia County officials said the same group was responsible for similar incidents in other parts of Florida as well. The group was recently kicked out of California.
“We are standing together to repudiate what these people believe,” Dr. L. Ronald Durham said.
According to Chitwood, some of the group’s members have criminal histories.