River Park swastika display draws calls for its removal

A home on Moddison Avenue in Sacramento’s River Park neighborhood displays a depiction of the American flag with a swastika replacing the stars Thursday. Anther flag on display replaces the Star of David with a swastika. e
A home on Moddison Avenue in Sacramento’s River Park neighborhood displays a depiction of the American flag with a swastika replacing the stars Thursday. Anther flag on display replaces the Star of David with a swastika. e pkitagaki@sacbee.com

A River Park resident kept his display of swastikas on his home amid renewed calls for him to take them down.

The Moddison Avenue home has been gathering the attention of state legislators, who have called the display an insult to American soldiers who fought in World War II to rid Europe of the scourge of Nazism and also an anti-Semitic affront to Jews.

On the door of the home is a depiction of the American flag with a swastika replacing the stars next to the stripes. Another flag shows a swastika in place of the Star of David.

A Palestinian flag is also being flown, and a crude wooden statue is draped in green fatigues with arms raised.

The resident of the home did not come to the door on Thursday, but a man from Granite Bay, Robert Dixon, was out front with signs to say the display should come down. Property records list the owners of the home as Douglas M. Clark and Mary K. Clark. Voter registration records show that Douglas Clark is a registered member of the Green Party.

“This is just absolutely despicable that this is considered free speech, these swastikas,” said Dixon. “This anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism is rampant. I’m just fed up with this.”

One of Dixon’s signs read “God Bless Israel and Every Soul in it.” He was upset that the American flag had been emblazoned with the swastika.

“I’m just a regular guy but I love my country,” Dixon said.

Sacramento City Councilman Jeff Harris and River Park neighborhood leaders condemned the display.

“We, the community of River Park, are very disappointed that one of our neighbors has chosen to construct a ‘display’ outside his home that contains symbols that are highly offensive and represent one of the greatest tragedies in modern human history,” they said in a statement. “River Park is a family-focused neighborhood that promotes tolerance, diversity and community. The River Park community would like to express in no uncertain terms that we are offended by this display, we categorically reject the sentiments expressed, and we request that the homeowner remove the materials immediately.”

Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, was among those who called for the Nazi symbols to come down.

“The swastika incites fear, it incites hate and it incites violence, and we need to be very careful about how these symbols are used in society,” he said. “The swastika should come down. The false equivalence of Nazism with Jews or even the state of Israel is unacceptable.”

Michael Risher, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said, “I’m not surprised that people are upset. I would be upset if this occurred in my neighborhood.”

But, Risher said, “You have a homeowner who clearly is trying to make some sort of political statement, and he has a constitutional right to do that.”

Risher noted that the courts have upheld the right of people to engage in many acts that others might find reprehensible, including burning the American flag, protesting at military funerals and holding up gory pictures to protest war and abortion.

What may be a symbol of hatred for one person may be another person’s expression of a need to change, Risher said. The best way to counter speech one considers objectionable, he said, is to respond with more speech.

Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, and chairman of the Legislature’s Jewish Caucus, called the display of swastikas detestable while noting freedom of speech was involved.

“This person has a right to put these up on his own house, but just because he has a right doesn’t make it the right thing to do,” Block.

Block said he River Park resident is dishonoring tens of thousands of veterans who died in World War II fighting against Nazi Germany said.

“He disgraces the memory of 6 million people who died in Hitler’s concentration camps,” said Block. “And for those still living, both veterans who fought in World War II and those who survived the concentration camps and their families, this has to be immeasurably hurtful to them, to go through a Sacramento neighborhood and see a house decorated in these signs.”

Sen. Richard Pan, who represents the neighborhood, said the swastika display left him with deep revulsion. He called the display a hurtful reminder of the atrocities of the Holocaust.

“We need to work with the neighborhood association and neighbors to figure out how we’re going to address this, particularly ensuring that one person’s actions don’t reflect the broader community,” Pan said. “We have to respect the First Amendment and freedom of expression, but at the same time clearly those symbols invoking the atrocities of the Holocaust are not ones that I think reflect of the community. It’s not something I like to see, so I’m hoping we can find a way to address the issue.”

Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079. The Bee’s Jeremy White and Cathy Locke contributed to this report.