Calling it “an indefensible act of hatred,” the Florida Holocaust Museum sharply condemned demonstrations at the Tampa Convention Center where a group of neo-fascists waved flags with swastikas outside Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit.
“This isn’t about politics or religion,” museum chairperson Mike Igel said in a statement. “It’s about humanity. The Florida Holocaust Museum calls upon everyone, Jew and non-Jew, regardless of political affiliation, to condemn this blatant antisemitism in the strongest possible terms. This should matter to everyone.”
Andrew Kolvet, a Turning Point spokesperson, said the flag-wavers had no affiliation with the conference. He later added: “Turning Point 100% condemns these ideologies in the strongest of terms.”
Groups clashed briefly outside on the convention center steps. Some were there to protest the gathering inside. Others were there to show support.
A Creative Loafing photographer captured images of neo-fascists carrying a swastika flag. They also carried a flag with an SS emblem, and a black sun flag that has been hoisted by far-right extremist groups.
“Openly and proudly displaying genocidal symbols is a direct threat to the Jewish community,” Igel said in his statement. “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.”
Inside the summit, Turning Point USA’s founder Charlie Kirk told a cheering crowd that there were 5,000 people in attendance. Former President Donald Trump was slated to deliver a keynote address on Saturday night.
Others in the lineup included Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert and Sen. Josh Hawley. Talking points included culture wars, accusations of uprooting “traditional social values,” denying the existence of transgender people, bashing COVID vaccines and conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen. Tables outside the convention center featured flags that said, “Trump won.”
Kirk called Democrats the “invading, occupying force” in the U.S. and encouraged attendees to have lots of children to “outbreed” liberals.
Igel, the museum chairperson, thanked Gov. Ron DeSantis, who headlined the Turning Point summit on Friday night, for his support to expand the Holocaust Museum this year in his statement.
“When antisemitic incidents occur that leverage chilling Nazi symbols, we are reminded of the importance of the Florida Holocaust Museum’s mission to preserve the memory of the Holocaust while educating future generations to prevent antisemitism and hatred of all kinds,” he wrote. “We will not be deterred.”
Kolvet, the Turning Point spokesperson, said the group didn’t know who the neo-fascists were or why they showed up.
“They have nothing to do with TPUSA, our event, or our students,” he said. “Our students took the mature route and vacated the space. Once that happened, they left.”