‘We stand with you:’ Orlando mayor speaks against antisemitic messages projected across city

Cellphone video shows words ‘vax the Jews’ across office building

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer released a statement Tuesday after antisemitic messages showed up on the side of buildings in downtown Orlando.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer released a statement Tuesday after antisemitic messages showed up on the side of buildings in downtown Orlando.

Cellphone video showed the words “vax the Jews” scrolling across the top of an office building on Saturday on Orange Avenue at Washington Street.

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Police said Wednesday that investigators are trying to determine who is responsible.

Downtown Orlando attracted thousands of revelers welcoming in 2023 on Saturday night.

Days after the incident, we asked Orlando Police Department if they could provide any more information about who could be responsible for spreading this hate and how they will be held accountable. A spokesperson declined to comment any further, citing their ongoing investigation.

”Chief Eric Smith does want the community to know that the Orlando Police Department condemns the use of any derogatory comments toward anyone and will take any action within our power to hold anyone who does so accountable,” police said in a statement.

News 6 confirmed with OPD Wednesday that they are looking into other incidents where antisemitic messages were posted in the downtown area on New Year’s Eve, including a building on Washington Street and on West Central Boulevard.

Dyer tweeted Tuesday about the display and vocalized his support for the Jewish community, saying in part, “I want to clearly state that prejudice and hate aren’t welcome in Orlando.”

Talli Dippold, CEO of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida said she was disappointed to see the hateful words in plain sight.

“I can’t say I was surprised,” said Dippold.

Dippold says it is another example of something we have seen over and over again, and that is why it must be called out.

“I am the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors, so I know firsthand what can happen when antisemitism in small steps are taken that eventually lead to genocide,” said Dippold. “It’s on me as a human being in this community to respond when any incident of hate or injustice occurs, and it could just be correcting someone when they make a joke about something. It could be just standing up and saying, ‘That wasn’t really funny.’ Or ‘do you know how hurtful that could be? Or where that comes from?’”

The owner of a restaurant on the bottom floor of the building where the hateful words were displayed suspected they were projected from a nearby parking garage.

But it was just one of many public antisemitic statements made in downtown Orlando over the weekend.

Another message was projected onto the Fairwinds Credit Union building on West Central Boulevard, reading “Hitler was right.”

In a statement to News 6, Fairwinds condemned the message and said it has worked with local authorities to help find the perpetrators and “bring them to justice.”

Videos of another message, reading “Did the Jews Kill Kanye yet?,” was posted online Sunday after it was projected onto a building next to the Planet Pizza on West Washington Street.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, spoke with News 6 about the action needed and the challenges as law enforcement investigates.

“There are some potential tools available when it comes to holding individuals accountable, but the reality is that in Florida we’ve seen a rise in antisemitism,”' said Eskamani. “Many of those who do this are walking the line of freedom of speech, and they do what they can to not cross it where it’s explicitly threatening, and that’s the challenge we face when it comes to this type of hateful rhetoric.”

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, tracked 2,717 antisemitic instances of assault, harassment and vandalism in 2021, a 34% increase over the previous year and the highest number since the group began tracking them in 1979.

-- The AP contributed to this report.

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About the Authors:

Penny De La Cruz started working at WKMG-TV in September 2021. Before joining News 6, Penny worked at KSAT 12 in San Antonio, Texas.

Catherine, born and raised in Central Florida, joined News 6 in April 2022.