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Author of Georgia’s Anti-Semitism Law Urges Its Reinstatement After Weekend Protests – WSB-TV Channel 2

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Author of Georgia’s Anti-Semitism Law Urges Its Reinstatement After Weekend Protests – WSB-TV Channel 2

ATLANTA — After neo-Nazi protesters demonstrated outside a synagogue in Cobb County Saturday night, the author of Georgia’s anti-Semitism law vowed to work to get the measure passed during the next legislative session in January.

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

Her proposed law would give antisemitism a legal definition in Georgia’s hate crime law.

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She says that currently someone demonstrating under a Nazi flag could say the swastika on display is just a political statement, which is protected.

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

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The Georgia House of Representatives passed the bill in its last session, but it was hung in a Senate committee for that very definition. It received broad support in the House of Representatives, although some progressive Democrats opposed some of the language.

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus released a statement condemning the neo-Nazi protest and saying it “stands with the Jewish community in denouncing this act of hatred.”

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

“It is evident that we must bring this bill to Governor Kemp at the next meeting,” Burns said in a statement.

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

“I think Georgians saw yesterday that this is not a state that will put up with hatred and discrimination,” Kemp said. “You’ve certainly seen that cross-party, and that’s the way it should be.”

Panitch fears there has been an escalation in anti-Semitic attacks in Georgia, from leaflets in Jewish families’ homes to neo-Nazi protests, and that violence may be the next step.

“The Jewish community is begging for help, and that’s the help we’re asking for,” Panitch said. “As a mainstream community, this is the relief we need.”

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