Officials in Jacksonville condemned multiple antisemitic messages that appeared in public spaces this weekend including a football stadium, highway overpass, and a downtown building.
An antisemitic message referencing rapper Kanye West was seen scrolling on the outside of TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville during the Georgia-Florida college football game on Saturday.
In the video, the words “Kanye is right about the jews” are visible scrolling across the exterior of the stadium structure, referencing recent antisemitic comments from the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West.
It is unclear how the message was projected onto the stadium wall. It is also unclear how long the message was visible outside the stadium.
In other videos circulating on social media, the same message was also visible on at least one building in Jacksonville on Saturday night.
And on Friday, banners were also visible from a highway overpass on Interstate 10 in Jacksonville.
The banners read “End Jewish Supremacy in America” and “Honk if you know it’s the Jews.”
The language in the scrolling messages in Jacksonville mirrors banners hung from a freeway overpass in Los Angeles last weekend by a group appearing to make Nazi salutes.
Antisemitic incidents in the United States have been on the rise for years, with 941 incidents in 2015 and 2,717 tracked in 2021 by the Anti-Defamation League.
Jennifer Plotkin, the Board President of the Jewish Federation and Foundation in Northeast Florida, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar Monday she was “certainly disheartened and concerned by the escalation of antisemitic rhetoric that we’ve seen, specifically over this past weekend.”
“We are very thankful for the numerous leaders and community members who have expressed their disgust and condemnation of these acts as well and going forward we will be using our anger and disappointment that these things are happening here, to build alliances within our community and to ensure that our Jewish community is protected,” Plotkin added.
Florida officials criticize Antisemitism
Several officials condemned the messages in statements following the weekend.
“The first step is to ensure we do not normalize this behavior,” said state Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Do not normalize Antisemitic messages above a freeway, or anywhere else.”
The Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida has “condemned and is outraged” by the multiple antisemitic events.
“We are harnessing our outrage into positive action. The Jewish Federation and Foundation has been in communication with the FBI, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and the St. Johns Sheriff’s office. We will continue to work with them in ensuring the safety and security of our community,” the group said in a statement.
“The rhetoric we have seen and heard in the last few weeks is unnerving and a scare tactic. However, our largest concern is that even one person will see this as a call to action and repeat what we witnessed in Pittsburgh exactly four years ago this weekend,” the Federation said.
Pittsburgh was the site of the deadliest attack of Jewish people on American soil, when on the morning of October 27, 2018, a man stormed the Tree of Life synagogue and killed 11 people.
US Rep. John Rutherford, whose district includes Jacksonville, said in a statement on Twitter, “There is absolutely no room for this sort of hate in Florida. I continue to stand in support of the Jewish community in Jacksonville and across the nation.”
In a tweet on Sunday morning, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said the city is made better because of its diversity.
“Those who spread messages of hate, racism and antisemitism will not be able to change the heart of this city or her people,” Curry wrote in the tweet. “I condemn these cowards and their cowardly messages.”
The University of Georgia and University of Florida jointly issued a statement condemning the messages.
“We strongly condemn the antisemitic hate speech projected outside TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville after the Florida-Georgia football game Saturday night and the other antisemitic messages that have appeared in Jacksonville.
“The University of Florida and the University of Georgia together denounce these and all acts of antisemitism and other forms of hatred and intolerance. We are proud to be home to strong and thriving Jewish communities at UGA and UF, and we stand together against hate,” the statement said.
West appeared in a rambling 16-minute video shared by WmgLab Records on YouTube on Saturday, in which he did not apologize for his antisemitic remarks but seemed to try to distance himself from any “hate group.”
“I have no association to any hate group,” West said as he closed his remarks in prayer. “If any hate happens upon any Jewish person, it is not associated (gestures to himself) because I am demanding that everyone walk in love.”
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan said he was “really distressed on all this antisemitic rhetoric around Florida-Georgia.”
“It’s not the Jacksonville I know and love, and all of us have to work together to absolutely put an end to it. So, let’s stop it,” he said prior to the Jaguars game against the Denver Broncos in London.