Apr 23, 2024
Members of the Jacksonville City Council stood in front of a memorial Monday for three innocent lives who were taken in a hate crime to announce a solution to a broken community’s demand for change.Just 240 days ago, AJ Laguerre Jr., Angela Carr, and Jerrald Gallion were shot and killed during a racially motivated shooting at a Dollar General. In 2019, anti-Black flyers were spotted in the Murray Hill neighborhood, and in January 2023, antisemitic flyers were found in Mandarin.RELATED: 1 year after antisemitic messages were displayed in Jacksonville, local Jewish leaders focus on informing community According to the FBI, between 2020 and 2022, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported 24 hate crimes. On Monday, City Council members announced new anti-hate crime legislation to increase criminal penalties for those responsible for hateful acts. The penalties include additional jail time and higher fines, including a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail for hate crimes including but not limited to acts of hostility against people because of their race, color, religion or sex.“If you are promoting animosity, hostility or malice to someone based on their race, religion, ethnicity, orientation, identity or national origin, there will be very real penalties,” Councilman Jimmy Peluso said.Map of hate crimes across JacksonvilleCity leaders also spoke about the antisemitic projections on EverBank Stadium.Peluso said the legislation is an answer to a call from the community to send a message that “hate has no home in Jacksonville.”“It is up to the government to make sure people are free and safe. This bill ensures that we use our collective power to ensure that safety is paramount,” Peluso said. Research on Florida hate crime incidents show crimes against people are at almost 70% with race, ethnicity, and ancestry as the leading motive and religion and sexual orientation following behind it.“We’re seeing hate crimes move forward not just here but through our entire country, and in the day and age of social media, makes it so easy to get these messages across and help inspire people to do wrong things,” Peluso said. “We need to make sure that we as a city are, at the very least, trying to find ways to prevent that. And this is something we know we can do.”The Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida was grateful for the proposed ordinance.“It will demonstrate that our city -- as it has been, our city council has been incredibly supportive of the Jewish community -- but it will demonstrate that they are standing shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm with the Jewish community,” JFAF CEO Mariam Feist said.The proposed bill was announced just in time for the start of Passover, a major Jewish holiday.Violators could also face fines for positing hateful signs or messages on public property.First time offenses start at $150Second time offenses $300 Third offenses and anything thereafter are $500Peluso said the council will vote on the bill in about six weeks.
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