East Bay

Residents Petition to Remove Swastika From East Bay Home

A symbol of hate has turned into a movement in the East Bay.

People are planning a protest in El Sobrante by a group called Not in Our Town. The organization dedicated to stopping hate said they’re angry over a swastika that’s recently been placed in a homeowner’s front lawn.

The protest will take place Thursday afternoon at Appian Way and San Pablo Dam Road.

Homeowner Steven Johnson was shocked when he found out about it. He said his intention was to get rid of the weeds in his front yard, not to spew hate.

"It’s no hate symbol to me, maybe it is to everybody else. I just put it there because I thought it would be cool," he said.

When the swastika — considered a universal symbol of hate — was put in his yard last week, the backlash began, and signs went up that say, "Not in Our Town."

"I don’t think he had any idea he’d get this kind of reaction," said neighbor Mallory Haggart. "I think he likes the symbol and likes to be the tough guy on the Harley."

About six million Jews were systematically killed in the Holocaust by Germany’s Nazi regime and its collaborators during World War II. Millions of others were also persecuted, among them Roma, people with mental or physical disabilities, gays and lesbians, Soviet prisoners, political opponents and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Johnson said he’s an American, "not a Nazi and I didn’t put it there as a display of Nazism."

Many residents, however, don’t believe him. Close to 4,000 people have signed a petition to try to force him to get rid of it.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia is looking for laws to try and force Johnson to remove it, but there are none.

"I’ve checked with building and planning folks and they say there’s nothing we can do from a building and planning perspective," Gioia said. "He didn’t need a building permit for this."

Johnson said he isn’t sure if he’s going to keep the symbol.

"It’s sure getting a lot of attention I didn’t want," he said.

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