The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has identified two of the leaders in recent antisemitic displays as a local man and one who traveled from California and told officers he was “the most famous anti-Semite in America on the internet.”
The incident report lists them as Joshua Dan Nunes, 36, of Jacksonville and Jon Eugene Minadeo II, 39, of Petaluma, Calif.
Nunes organized a group of protesters who displayed antisemitic banners on the Interstate 10 overpass at Chaffee Road on Oct. 28 for the Georgia-Florida game weekend, according to a Sheriff’s Office report. He came forward when officers asked to speak to the organizer.
He told officers they were members of National Socialist Florida. He established the group, according to a September report from the ADL Center on Extremism, which called it an “emerging Duval County-based neo-Nazi organization” that has in recent months dramatically expanded its range of activities, holding demonstrations and distributing antisemitic … propaganda along with their own.”
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They wore red T-shirts and white bandanas labeled NSF, “with the ‘S’ written “in the style of the Nazi SS symbol (lightning bolt style),” according to the report.
One banner proclaimed, “End Jewish supremacy in America”; another said, ‘Honk if you know it’s the Jews.”
Nunes told officers the group was “there for a peaceful protest and that they would leave if requested to do so by the police,” according to the report.
Asked by the Times-Union by phone Friday to explain why he was there and what prompted the activity, Nunes said, “I’m not answering questions like that,” and hung up.
He has no criminal record in his home counties of Duval and Clay, according to court records.
‘There is no such thing as hate speech. … Only free speech’
On the I-10 overpass that day, Minadeo also was “operating a small drone” above the National Socialist Florida group. Nunes said Minadeo was “not part of his group and that he would prefer that the drone man was not there with them,” according to the report.
Minadeo, who listed his occupation as “internet broadcaster,” was “polite but evasive,” according to the report. He told officers he was once arrested at Auschwitz in Poland, which was a German Nazi concentration camp.
In an interview with the Times-Union Friday, he said he found out about the protest via an activist network and was filming it with the drone. The next day, Minadeo used his drone to film antisemitic messages being displayed with a laser on Jacksonville buildings, including one at the Georgia-Florida game at TIAA Bank Field. He said someone else operated the laser, but he would not identify them.
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During that filming, a cluster of police officers was “trying to block the laser,” but he told them he and the operator were “following the law” and trying to stop them would violate their First Amendment rights, he said. A woman passerby, who was apparently Jewish and did not like the messages, “punched me in the head,” a move the police witnessed but ignored, he said.
“There is no such thing as hate speech. There is only free speech,” he said.
Minadeo said he and family members have been “harassed” often in the past because of his views. He said he grew up liberal but changed his mind after researching how “the left has gone extremely communist, anti-Europe, anti-white” and Jews run government and media. He said he came to view California as “hippy, hippy” and plans to move to Jacksonville because of its weather and conservative political attitudes.
Now he believes being a liberal is a “mental disorder,” he said.
Minadeo said he was not part of a specific group but of a “loosely organized” activist network across the country. He said their activities are “peaceful and nonviolent” and invited other people to join. He invited the Times-Union to check out his videos, but the website wspans recently removed by the provider.
State Attorney’s Office weighs in
The State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville received inquiries about the legality of the recent protest and messaging, but what many view as hate speech is considered free speech by the U.S. Constitution.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held such speech — even despicable speech — is protected by the First Amendment,” according to a statement from the State Attorney’s Office.
“If this office is presented with evidence indicating an intent to directly incite imminent criminal activity or specifically threaten violence against a person or group, then criminal prosecution may be implicated,” according to a statement from the State Attorney’s Office.
Still, State Attorney Melissa Nelson denounced last weekend’s hate speech.
“The type of hateful, antisemitic rhetoric we witnessed … is repulsive and has no place in any community,” she said. “We will continue to monitor these types of activities to ensure the safety of everyone in our city and hold accountable any who cause harm to anyone based on hate or animus.”
Jewish community plans to ‘control the narrative’
The Jewish community has been living with such hateful behavior for generations, said Miriam Feist, CEO of the Jewish Federspantion spannd Foundspantion of Northespanst Floridspan. Her grandparents left Russia because of pogroms, whiwere violent attacks on Jews.
Modern-day hate speech in the U.S. being considered free speech is “frustrating and disappointing,” she said. But they are grateful for the ongoing support of the Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.
And that hateful behavior inspires them to take action, such as the new $1 million fund created to combat antisemitism and bias through communitywide education and discussions, Feist said.
The Together Strong Community Fund will promote “education, conversation and interaction to combat the root causes of bias,” according to an announcement from the federation. Among other things, the fund will support the creation of the Jewish Community Relations Council and the work of OneJax, a nonprofit interfaith organization that promotes racial, religious and cultural tolerance.
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“This is a time for the community at large to come together … in one collective voice,” Feist said. Most people in Jacksonville practice acceptance and tolerance, she said, and them “practicing empathy and inclusion will overshadow” the hateful minority.
“We will define our community. We will control the narrative,” Feist said.
The new fund will also support a Community Security Initiative, which will include the hiring of a full-time security executive and developing “a comprehensive program that provides risk mitigation, security consultations and assessments to Jewish institutions throughout the region,” according to the federation.
The Jewish community “must stay vigilant and take extra care to be cautious and aware of their surroundings, Feist said. But “we are not going to stop living life.”
HOW TO RESPOND TO HATE SPEECH
The State Attorney’s Office’s Human Rights Division oversees cases involving hate crimes. Call in tips to the division’s hotline at (904) 255-3099.
Hate speech and images also can be reported to [email protected]
To donate to the Together Strong Fund, contact Mariam Feist at [email protected] or (904) 224-1410 or Kellie Smith at [email protected] or (904) 512-3796. For more information about the fund or the federation, contact the organization at 8505 San Jose Blvd., Jacksonville 32217; (904) 448-5000; [email protected] or go to jewishjacksonville.org.