Jacksonville may outlaw hate speech displays

Published on January 18, 2023 at 1:48 pm

Jacksonville might make it a crime to project images onto the side of buildings — like the antisemitic displays shown around Jacksonville in recent months.

Beaches City Councilman Rory Diamond plans to sponsor a bill making it illegal to project displays onto someone else’s building, whether the message is hateful or something else.

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“It essentially makes it a crime to project one of these images on the side of a building without the building owner’s consent,” Diamond said Wednesday on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross. “Now, it’s content neutral, which means you can’t spray any message with one of these lasers on anyone’s building without their consent, which means it’ll pass First Amendment muster. But clearly what we want to do is stop this ridiculous hate speech.”

Images on social media showed a cross and swastika projected onto the side of the CSX building in Downtown Jacksonville during the Jaguars playoff game on Saturday. Some viewers questioned whether the images were a hoax, but CSX denounced the action nonetheless.

“The increased acts of antisemitism in Jacksonville are unacceptable,” CSX said in a statement. “They are an appalling display of intolerance, which shows hatred and undermines our greatest strength — our diversity.”

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Similar images were projected onto TIAA Bank Field and other buildings during earlier Jaguars games as well as the annual Florida-Georgia football game in October.

Antisemitic signs also were hung from an overpass on Interstate 10, and airplane banners have been flown over the stadium repeatedly in support of Confederate monuments.

Law enforcement officials said there was little they could do about the displays because they are protected as free speech, no matter how abhorrent. Diamond’s bill might change that.

Anyone violating the new law would face arrest and a $2,000 fine.

Jacksonville City Council would need to approve the proposal. A date for a vote has not been set.

author image "Morning Edition" Host and Radio Reading Service Manager email Michelle Corum has been the voice of "Morning Edition" on WJCT since 2012. Her career spans public radio in Kansas and Michigan, and her work has been featured on NPR. She oversees WJCT's Radio Reading Service, and has been acknowledged for her newscasts by Florida AP Broadcasters. Corum also brings corporate communication expertise from D.C. and holds a master's from Central Michigan University and a journalism bachelor's from Troy University. author image Senior News Editor

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. 

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