Florida Man Arrested for Draping Neo-Nazi Banners Over Orlando Highway

By Matis Glenn

Police arresting Jason Brown (FDLE)

Florida police officers arrested a man Wednesday for allegedly hanging antisemitic banners in June over a highway in Orlando, marking a significant shift in how law enforcement in one of the nation’s largest states deals with hate speech and raising questions about the boundaries of free speech.

Jason Brown, 48, of Cape Canaveral, was one of four demonstrators who police say draped banners containing swastikas and other antisemitic messages over a fence along the Daryl Carter Parkway Bridge on the I-4 highway on June 10.

The other three suspects live out of state, and have outstanding warrants for their arrest in connection with the incident.

The arrest is unique, as hate speech that does not directly incite violence is typically viewed as constitutionally protected free speech under the First Amendment.

Brown’s arrest was not directly due to the content of the banners. Police say his actions were illegal under a recently passed state law prohibiting the display or projection of images onto buildings, structures or property without permission. That rule, House Bill 269, was signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 1. HB 269 also prohibits intimidation or harassment of people due to “religious or ethnic heritage.”

Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston, says that an arrest made under the new law regarding the display or projection of images on property does not infringe on the First Amendment. “The First Amendment will generally protect the right of people to walk on public sidewalks, hold up signs, hand out literature, speak to people they see, and so on,” Blackman told Hamodia. “I don’t think the First Amendment gives people the right to post signs on private property, or even sidewalks.”

Florida police were clear in stating that the antisemitic content of the speech motivated the arrest. House Bill 269 gave law enforcement “the tools to arrest this hate-filled radical,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass said in a statement. “This activity will not be tolerated in the greatest state in the country, Florida.”

Brown claims to be a member of “Order of the Black Sun” an antisemitic, extremist group. He will be charged with Criminal Mischief.

Florida has seen an uptick in recent months of antisemitic pamphleteering and harassment from organizations including the Goyim Defense League, a neo-Nazi group. Jewish community activists tell Hamodia that the GDL has blocked Jewish people from walking on Florida streets, and has organized threatening demonstrations, including one incident in which group members displayed cooking grills, compared them to the crematoria of Auschwitz, and asked people if they are ‘large enough for you,’ among other similar actions.

Police report recent anonymous, bogus bomb threats targeting Jewish-owned institutions as well, and law enforcement is on high alert ahead of Yamim Noraim.

“It was very comforting to see that someone has been held accountable for spreading hate speech,” Florida Law Enforcement Chaplain Rabbi Mark Rosenberg told Hamodia. “and hopefully this sends a message to others, especially in the state of Florida, with Gov. DeSantis in office, that this will not be tolerated. They worked hard and diligently to find who did this, and they were able to arrest him. People’s religion cannot be threatened … We don’t need an actual tragedy to happen in order to disrupt the peace of people going to shul.”

Agudath Israel expressed satisfaction with the arrest.

“We have seen in recent months how a group of self-proclaimed Neo-Nazis have been terrorizing the Orlando area and spreading vile antisemitic propaganda and material,” Rabbi Moshe Matz, Director of Agudath Israel of Florida told Hamodia. “We are very thankful to law enforcement for taking this seriously and working hard to bring this individual to justice.”

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