Two Nazi flags hanging outside an apartment window in downtown Santa Cruz stirred up emotional reactions in a town known for promoting freedom of expression.
Some holiday shoppers and nearby residents expressed shock and disgust Monday evening at seeing the flags hanging outside a unit of the St. George Residences on Pacific Avenue.
"It's a Nazi flag. There is so much history behind it and destruction of European Jews that you can't forget that," said UC-Santa Cruz student Rishy Kashyep.
"It's intended to hurt. You wouldn't hang that flag there for any other reason," said Eric Stettmeier, who lives downtown.
The man swapped out the two flags Tuesday and replaced the Nazi ones with an American Flag and a Union Jack. He made no comment on the original offering or why he decided to make a change.
A neighbor said the 40-year-old man who hung the flags, did so for historical reasons, not hatred.
He is a nice enough neighbor. He is a very amiable guy, but very eclectic. Sort of a student of antiquity," Zachary Woodford said. Woodford added that the man is a veteran and means no harm.
"I would definitely say that it was more of an intellectual pursuit than any statement," Woodford said.
Other residents of the apartment complex said the flags were also meant to intimidate people who harass those who live in the area.
But for those who walked by the flags Monday evening said despite the reasons, the man should take the flags down.
"I want to give him the benefit of the doubt if he is a history major to, just out of respect, not do that," Stephanie Ross.
Although the flags may be deemed offensive, the unit's resident isn't required by law to remove the flags.
"On Halloween, walking downtown, I saw people dressed as Hitler and no one was saying anything, people were walking by laughing. It's sort of a mockery of actual historical events that just isn't funny," UC-Santa Cruz senior Diane Murphy said.