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City leaders, Jewish community groups speak out against anti-Semitic protest in Austin

Austin leaders expressed their concerns after an anti-Semitic sign was hung over Mopac on Saturday. (Oren Segal/Twitter)

Shalom Austin and city leaders have vocalized concerns after an anti-Semitic banner reading "Vax the Jews" was placed over Mopac Saturday afternoon.

The sign, which is believed to be the work of Jon Minadeo II of the neo-nazi group labeled the "Goyim Defense League," was flanked by a small group of protestors above the Far West overpass in Central Austin. The display was located near Shalom Austin, a community center that says it is a "hub for Jewish life in Central Texas."

"We understand this is extremely upsetting and unsettling," Shalom Austin said in a letter Saturday. "We are always vigilant in monitoring anti-Semitic groups and work closely with law enforcement to share information about their activities."

Austin police officers were made aware of the sign and reported to the scene Saturday afternoon. The department came under fire after photos circulated of an APD officer fist-bumping a protester. Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon released a statement that the photos were taken out of context and that the officer got a protester to comply with his requests to ensure the scene remained safe. The protester then requested a handshake to which the officer opted for a fist bump citing COVID-19 safety protocols.

"After enduring a barrage of hate speech and personal insults being hurled at them, officers who responded to the scene calmly and professionally carried out their duty to keep drivers on MoPac, bystanders and protesters safe while ensuring that the incident did not escalate and no laws were being broken."

The sign is not believed to be connected to racist and Anti-Semitic vandalism that was painted on student parking spaces at Anderson High School, according to the group.

Shalom Austin said that the "Goyim Defense League" appears to have plans for more activities in the area in the coming days. The neo-nazi group is known for conducting anti-Semitic protests, harassing Jewish organizations and spreading anti-Semitic propaganda on social media. In 2019, the group dressed as Hasidic Jews and said "they were 'sorry' that Jews lied about the Holocaust and were responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks," according to The Jerusalem Post. They have been linked to similar signs above overpasses in California, Colorado and Florida.

City leaders, including Chacon, Mayor Steve Adler and City Council members Greg Casar and Alison Alter spoke out about the attacks.

"Let's be clear. Hate and bigotry have absolutely no place in our community and certainly are not welcome in our police department," Chacon said. "Views shared by demonstrators during a protest action over the weekend were abhorrent and do not reflect our values."

"I am heartbroken to see antisemitic hatred in Austin, a welcoming and respectful place. Hatred of any kind has no place in our city. If you see or hear it, you should report it to ADL," Adler said on Twitter.

Shalom Austin said that the Austin Police Department will continue to monitor the situation and advise those who may see the group to not interact with protestors.


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