ORLANDO, Fla. – More than a dozen self-proclaimed Nazis yelled antisemitic slogans outside a Central Florida shopping plaza and waved a swastika flag from a highway overpass before authorities broke them up over the weekend.
The demonstrators, wearing Nazi garb, protested at an intersection at Waterford Lakes near the University of Central Florida on Saturday and on a highway overpass on Sunday. Authorities from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida Highway Patrol said in a statement that they had disbanded the group on the overpass, along with sheriff’s deputies.
“It is against the law to obstruct highway traffic or hang signs on the overpasses and violators will be prosecuted,” according to the statement.
Orange County Sheriff John Mina said any reports of criminal activity by the group would be investigated by his agency. Orange County is home to the nation’s biggest theme park resorts.
“The investigation is ongoing and if detectives determine a crime was committed, they can file the charges at large with the state attorney’s office,” an Orange County sheriff’s spokeswoman told News 6.
“I along with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office deplore any type of hate speech,” Mina tweeted. “This hatred has no place in our society.”
Video of the demonstration at Waterford Lakes was shared on social media has since been removed from the platform and is a part of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office investigation.
Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, Democratic Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other elected leaders issued statements declaring that antisemitism and hatred have no place in Florida. The demonstrations took place a week after antisemitic flyers were distributed to hundreds of homes in Florida cities with large Jewish populations.
“Despite displays of hate in Central Florida this weekend, our collective commitment to building an inclusive, compassionate community for all is stronger than ever,” Dyer said in a tweet.
Local Democratic lawmakers said they were appalled by the demonstrations and urged Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to condemn the demonstrators. The governor’s spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, said in a tweet that Democrats were insinuating that DeSantis’ policies were responsible for the demonstration.
The governor “has ALWAYS condemned antisemitic attacks & hatred, and he always will,” Pushaw tweeted. “To suggest otherwise is just plain wrong.”
News 6 and The Associated Press contributed to this report.