Anti-Semitic signage on shops on the south side provokes community disgust and raises concerns over freedom of expression

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The display of hateful rhetoric at Budget Automotive Repair comes after protests last week in front of the San Antonio Jewish Community Center.

SAN ANTONIO – Among the latest known manifestations of anti-Semitism in San Antonio is signage posted on the private property of an auto repair shop on the south side, which has raised questions about free speech.

Annette Orta grew up in southern San Antonio.

“The community on the south side remains tight,” Orta said.

But the display of hatred displayed at Budget Automotive Repair along Quintana Road took her by surprise Monday morning. KENS 5 decided to hide discriminatory language and symbols.

Auto repair shop owner Frank Pena confirmed over the phone with KENS 5 that he posted the signage while assigning the First Amendment.

“It’s scary, it’s scary to know that we are people who feel that way in the community,” Orta said. “That’s all it is, it’s discrimination and hatred of a certain type of community or population because of the way they are or what they believe.”

St. Mary’s University constitutional law professor Bill Piatt said the display of anti-Semitism falls under a First Amendment argument.

“The First Amendment, however, even protects hate speech as long as it isn’t obscene or even immediately threatens or incites violence.”

A week ago, protesters gathered in front of the Barshop Jewish Community Center in San Antonio, shouting and displaying hateful rhetoric.

The handful of people were holding up signs and using a megaphone while standing on the sidewalk.

Piatt noted that courts have long allowed restrictions on when, where and how to speak.

“Someone who encroaches on private property, goes to a grocery store or church property, he is not allowed to be there, so his speech would be inappropriate in the sense that he is breaking in.” Piatt said.

Freedom of expression is not without potential consequences.

“You can’t defame people, so if the message you are describing based on the wording defamed an individual, that individual could bring a civil action against the defamatory people,” Piatt said.

City leaders, including San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, have shown support for the Jewish community following the series of anti-Semitic incidents.

“We do not tolerate this here in the city of San Antonio. We are an inclusive community and we will stand by our neighbors when they come under attack, ”said Nirenberg.

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