Florida politicians and local Jewish leaders are demanding Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis condemn a group of neo-Nazis who congregated outside a Tampa convention center over the weekend, passing out anti-Semitic propaganda and displaying swastikas alongside flags that read “DeSantis Country.”
The gathering occurred Saturday outside the Tampa Convention Center, where the conservative youth-oriented group Turning Point USA was hosting its Student Action Summit, just one day after DeSantis addressed the conference.
“We may disagree on policies, but if we as leaders don’t denounce neo-Nazis and white supremacists in our state, in our country, what are we doing here?” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried, who is Jewish, during a press conference. “I am asking you, Ron DeSantis, to denounce the Nazis that were here, here to celebrate you speech inside this convention center. They were holding your pictures yesterday.”
Mr. DeSantis, condemn these Nazis. pic.twitter.com/9EqOJc18WY
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) July 24, 2022
In addition to DeSantis, other high-profile Student Action Summit attendees — including former President Donald Trump, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) — have also stayed silent on the matter.
“I’ll be dammed if Nazis and Proud Boys waltz through our City and spew such repulsive speech,” Florida state Sen. Janet Cruz wrote on Twitter. “Words have power and we will NOT accept this in our backyard. All of us must stand up and make clear that we reject this bigoted display.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) was the only featured speaker at the conference who openly condemned the group’s presence outside the convention center. “This is a disgusting act of hateful anti-Semitism and doesn’t belong in Florida, our nation or anywhere across the world,” he tweeted. “We stand with our Jewish community and against this hate. It must end.” (Meanwhile, alt-right conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, who also attended, bizarrely claimed the neo-Nazis were, in fact, liberal protestors. “There are now actual Neo-Nazis outside of Turning Point protesting the event,” he wrote on Twitter. “Got a little closer and yup, they are definitely leftists.”)
The display also drew comment from Florida Holocaust Museum chairman Mike Igel. “Carrying the Nazi flag, or that of the SS, the unit responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Holocaust, is an indefensible act of pure hatred,” Igel said in a statement. “This isn’t about politics or religion. It’s about humanity.”
According to Tampa-based media outlet Creative Loafing, flyers handed out by the group were published by the Goyim Defense League — an organization the Anti-Defamation League describes as a “small network of virulently antisemitic provocateurs led by Jon Minadeo II of Petaluma, California” known for spreading “antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories” through social media and highly coordinated public stunts.
In a statement, Turning Point USA spokesperson Andrew Kolvet said the group “condemns those ideologies in the strongest of terms” but claimed there was little event organizers could do to remove the racist protesters from the vicinity. “Since these individuals were located on public property, our security attempted to, but was not permitted to remove them,” Kolvet said, adding: “They have nothing to do with TPUSA, our event, or our students.”