TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Holocaust center in Florida and others condemned the presence of protesters holding Nazi flags and posters with antisemitic imagery outside a convention of young conservative activists that drew as speakers President Donald Trump, Florida Gov, Ron DeSantis and several Republican U.S. senators.
Florida Holocaust Museum chairman Mike Igel said that the demonstration represented “a direct threat" to the Jewish community in the area. The museum is based in St. Petersburg, across the bay from the Tampa Convention Center, where the protesters showed up Saturday outside where the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit convention was being held.
Founded by conservative Charlie Kirk in 2012, Turning Point is a Trump-aligned group that organizes young people on college campuses into conservative activism. The convention attracted 5,000 young conservatives.
“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."
Turning Point spokesman Andrew Kolvet said Sunday that the Nazi protesters had no affiliation with the conference and that his organization condemned their ideologies.
“Since these individuals were located on public property, our security attempted to, but was not permitted to remove them," Kolvet said in an email. “We have no idea who they are or why they were here. They have nothing to do with TPUSA, our event, or our students. Our students, after initially confronting them, ultimately took the mature route and vacated the space. Once that happened, these individuals left.”
Besides Trump and DeSantis, other scheduled speakers at the Turning Point convention included Republican U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and Fox News TV personality Laura Ingraham.
The protesters with Nazi flags clashed briefly with protesters who had marched to the convention center from a nearby park demonstrating against the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Florida politicians across the political spectrum, from Republican U.S. Rick Scott to Democratic gubernatorial candidates Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried, condemned the Nazi protesters on Sunday.