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Anti-Semitic signage on south side business causes disgust among community, prompts free speech concerns

The display of hate-filled rhetoric at Budget Automotive Repair comes after last week's protests across the street from San Antonio's Jewish Community Center.

SAN ANTONIO — Among the latest known displays of Anti-Semitism in San Antonio is signage posted on private property of an auto repair shop on the south side, which has raised questions surrounding freedom of speech.

Annette Orta grew up on the south side of San Antonio.

“The south side community sticks together,” Orta said.

But the display of hate posted at Budget Automotive Repair along Quintana Road caught her by surprise Monday morning. KENS 5 decided to obscure the discriminatory language and symbols.

The auto repair shop’s owner, Frank Pena, confirmed with KENS 5 over the phone, he posted the signage while attributing the First Amendment. 

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

St. Mary’s University constitutional law professor Bill Piatt says the display of Anti-Semitism falls into a First Amendment argument.

“The First Amendment, however, protects even hateful speech as long as it isn’t obscene or as long as it isn’t even immediately threatening violence or inciting violence.”

One week ago, protestors gathered across the street from the Barshop Jewish Community Center of San Antonio, shouting and displaying hateful rhetoric.

The handful of individuals brandished signs and used a megaphone while standing on the sidewalk.

Piatt noted the courts have long allowed restriction on time, place and manner of speech.

“Someone who trespasses on private property, goes onto grocery store property or church property, they don’t have a right to be there, so their speech would be inappropriate in the sense that they’re trespassing,” Piatt said.

Freedom of speech doesn’t come without potential consequences.

 “You can’t defame people so if the message that you’re describing depending on the wording defamed an individual, that individual would be able to bring a civil lawsuit against the people doing the defamation,” Piatt said.

City leaders including San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg have come out in support of the Jewish community following the string of Anti-Semitic incident.

“We don’t tolerate that here in the City of San Antonio. We’re an inclusive community and we will stand with our neighbors when they’re under attack,” Nirenberg said.

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