'Guardian of Israel' Award Presented To Sheriff Chitwood By Israeli Community Leaders
Date Added: May 25, 2023 10:51 am
Office of Public Affairs & Media Relations
‘GUARDIAN OF ISRAEL’ AWARD PRESENTED TO SHERIFF CHITWOOD BY ISRAELI COMMUNITY LEADERS
An Israeli delegation of religious, business and political leaders presented Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood with a “Guardian of Israel” award Wednesday in recognition of his stand against hate in Volusia County and across the country.
The award from Israel365 was presented at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, where Christian media professionals and communicators are gathering over four days at the Marriott World Center in Orlando.
“It’s incredible to see our story here in Volusia County travel across the world and generate this kind of support and appreciation from Israel,” Sheriff Chitwood said. “I’m beyond honored to accept this award and to keep spreading the message that hate and extremism have no place in our society.”
Read more: Florida’s Sheriff Chitwood: Exclusive interview with ‘Guardian of Israel’ Award Winner
The events that led up to today’s award began in February, when Sheriff Chitwood called a news conference and interfaith rally in response to harassment and hate directed at Jewish people in Central Florida. A hate group had used a portable projector to display antisemitic messages on the side of Daytona International Speedway, draped a banner over the “Welcome to Daytona Beach” walkway outside the racetrack, and littered several neighborhoods with flyers espousing hate and conspiracy theories. In Orlando, the same group had been harassing Jewish people outside their place of worship, live-streaming the abuse online. The group later did the same to police in West Palm Beach, directing racial and ethnic slurs at officers in an attempt to provoke a reaction and raise money from their fans.
These and several other incidents contributed to Florida’s passage of HB 269, which gave law enforcement new tools to protect people from harassment, threats and intimidation based on their religious or ethnic heritage. The new law also prohibits littering private property with threatening or intimidating flyers and projecting an image or message onto a building without the owner’s consent, among other measures. (Click here for a summary of the legislation.)
Since speaking out in February, supporting HB 269 and continuously calling out the “radical group of cowardly scumbags” he viewed as “clowns” and often criminals, Sheriff Chitwood, his family and staff began receiving a flood of harassing and in some cases threatening calls and messages. To date, three users of the Internet forum 4chan have been arrested on felony charges of making a written threat to kill.
In contrast to the threats and hate mail, the sheriff has also seen an influx of support from the Volusia County community and beyond, including a care package of cards, thank-you notes and artwork delivered to his desk this week from K-8 students at the Hillel Academy in Tampa.
Earlier this month, Sheriff Chitwood also received the ‘Critical Citizen Award’ from the Palm Beach Synagogue, another community that has seen extremist hate activity increase during the tour of the same small group of white supremacist and neo-Nazi agitators.