A Florida man was arrested and charged with multiple felonies last Thursday after intentionally performing a "burnout" with his car over a Pride-themed mural painted on an intersection in Delray Beach, opening him up to become the first person charged under the state's controversial new "anti-riot" bill pushed by Republicans.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed the bill meant to crack down on protests in the wake of the George Floyd uprisings earlier this year, just as the trial against former Minneapolis police officer Derick Chauvin was wrapping up. The legislation was heavily opposed by first amendment activists and Black lawmakers in the state. Now a young Trump supporter may be the first person entangled by the new law.
Alexander Jerich, 20, is accused of deliberately making skid marks across a mural meant to commemorate the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting, in his Chevrolet Silverado. According to WPBF, Delray Beach Police have since charged Jerich with criminal mischief, reckless driving, and evidence of prejudice. Just prior to the incident, Jerich was allegedly participating in a pro-Trump rally in celebration of the former president's birthday that was put together by the Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee.
A witness told the police that heard someone holler "tear up that gay intersection" before Jerich shortly defaced the mural with his car. The incident was also caught on video, which allowed the police to identify Jerich, who turned himself in, through a license plate search.
Rand Hoch, founder and president of the Palm Beach Human Rights Council, told WFOR that Jerich carried out "a deliberate act of violence against the LGBTQ community. We've made such progress here in the last 30 years on LGBTQ issues. To see someone do something like this took me by surprise."
"Kudos to the Delray Beach Police Department for swiftly identifying and arresting this hateful criminal," Hoch added.
The city had just unveiled the mural two days before the incident, according to law enforcement, and paid north of $16,000 for its creation.
Jerich could now be subject to heightened penalties imposed by Florida's new GOP-backed "anti-riot" law signed back in April. As WPEC's Sam Kerrigan noted: "When it comes to this case, the key here is that this new anti-riot law also stops someone from damaging historic property or a memorial. And under the law, this new Pride mural in Delray Beach, here, qualifies as a memorial because it's dedicated to the lives lost in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando."
Hoch, too, suggested that Jerich could be charged under the new GOP measure.