Atlanta

Author of Georgia’s antisemitism bill pushing to have it reintroduced following weekend protests

ATLANTA — After Neo-Nazi protestors demonstrated outside a Cobb County Synagogue Saturday night, the author of Georgia’s antisemitism bill promises to work to get the measure passed during this next legislative session in January.

“The community needs to do everything to let them know they’re not welcome here,” said State Rep. Esther Panitch, a Sandy Springs Democrat.

Her proposed bill would give antisemitism a legal definition under Georgia’s Hate Crime Law.

Right now, she says someone demonstrating under a Nazi flag could say the displayed swastika is just a political statement, which is protected.

“We don’t know anybody with eyes or ears or anybody who knows history at all knows what the Nazi swastika stands for,” Panitch said. “It stands for the extermination of the Jewish people. We all know it’s antisemitic, but there’s nothing in the law that says it is, so we need a definition, and that’s what HB 30 would do. It would define it.”

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The Georgia House passed the bill last session, but it got hung up in a Senate committee over that very definition. It had broad support in the House, though some progressive Democrats opposed some of the language.

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement condemning the Neo-Nazi protest and said it “stands with the Jewish Community to denounce this act of hatred.”

Georgia’s Republican House Speaker Jon Burns supported Panitch’s bill and said it was time to get it passed.

“It is apparent we must get that bill to Governor Kemp’s desk next session,” Burns said in a statement.

Gov. Brian Kemp condemned the Neo-Nazi protest and believes the bill will get another chance to pass in the General Assembly next year in one form or another.

“I think Georgians saw yesterday that this is not a state that’s going to put up with hate and discrimination,” Kemp said. “Certainly you saw that in a bi-partisan fashion and that’s the way it should be.”

Panitch worries that Georgia has seen an escalation in antisemitic acts from fliers placed at homes of Jewish families to the Neo-Nazi protest and that violence could be the next step.

“The Jewish Community is begging for relief, and this is the relief we are asking for,” Panitch said. “As a mainstream community, this is the relief we need.”

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