A Colorado family drew complaints for flying a Nazi flag outside their home on Election Day — but police said they were powerless to remove it because of the First Amendment.
A neighbor who lived next door to the home in the 200 block of North Mesa Street in Fruita reported the red and white swastika-emblazoned flag to police at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Denver Post reports.
“Earlier this week the Fruita Police Department was made aware of a residence displaying a flag with markings commonly associated with Nazi symbolism,” Fruita Police Chief Dave Krouse told the newspaper in an email. “Such a display appears to fall under the umbrella of Constitutionally-protected speech, and the police department is not investigating it as a criminal matter.”
Rob Norris said he noticed the flag after picking up his daughter at school Tuesday afternoon.
“I literally stopped dead in the street,” Norris said.
Norris’ wife, who is Jewish, “just about lost it” when she saw the flag, he said. Later Tuesday, after reporting the disturbing find to police, Norris discussed the incident with his three children, although two of them were too young to understand its significance.
His daughter, however, did grasp the meaning of the flag since Norris and she had recently discussed the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue where a gunman killed 11 people during a service while screaming “All Jews must die!” on Oct. 27.
“It’s definitely a ‘Welcome to the world, kid,’” Norris told the newspaper.
The flag was removed by early Wednesday morning at the latest, Norris said.
The owner of the home, meanwhile, refused to identify himself to a reporter but told KKCO that it was his right to fly the flag and that he had no intention of taking it down.
Other neighbors told the station they had never seen the symbol of hate in their neighborhood before.
“I would question their sanity on that one,” Fruita resident Anne Keller told the station. “Sure, we all have freedom of speech, but that transgresses that. I look at that and I say that’s a person that I have no desire to have any contact with whatsoever.”
Neighbor Carol Lynch said the residents at the home, which is just doors away from a school, have lived there for about a year. The property is now in foreclosure, according to public records cited by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
“It just spews hatred,” Lynch said of the Nazi flag. “This close to the school, what are we teaching kids?”
Lynch’s husband, Kevin, said the couple has previously reported suspected drug activity at the home, but no arrests followed. A police sergeant also confirmed to the newspaper that the department received a report late Tuesday from a neighbor involving a “civil issue” at the home.
“I totally understand the free speech thing,” Carol Lynch told the newspaper. “But you let this, the next time it will be a noose hanging from a tree.”
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