William Stark, who lives next door to an elementary school where a majority of the students are not white, says the Nazi and Confederate symbols he’s painted on pallets around his property are not racist.
“It’s a free country,” William Stark said. “I’ll put it out there if I want to.”
Stark insisted that outraged residents and parents shouldn’t construe the signage in his yard as racist.
“They don’t know their history, evidently,” Stark told the outlet last week. “That’s the only reason I can think of that they can think anything bad about it — they don’t know their history.”
Stark referred to his large swastika sign as a “World War II flag” and refused to take the display down.
But Morris Elementary in Des Moines disagreed, denouncing his display in a statement, reports FOX32 Chicago.
“We should all be sickened that someone would promote the hatred espoused by Confederates and Nazis within sight of the front doors of an elementary school,” the statement said.
“At Morris Elementary School, where more than 60% of the students educated are children of color, students see these symbols of hate when they arrive and leave school, or are simply on the playground.”
Meg Viola, a school parent, said the swastika represents a symbol of white supremacism and is racist, offensive, and disgusting.
“It’d really be nice if they just take the stuff down,” Viola said.
But Stark said he has no plans to take down his display.
City officials labeled his property a nuisance earlier this year.
Al Setka, a spokesman for the city government, said Stark is within his rights to display the flags.
“While the city may find these signs inappropriate and repugnant, particularly when displayed near an elementary school attended by students of diverse backgrounds, it must be noted that these residents have First Amendment rights protecting their freedom of speech, especially in and around their homes,” he said.
“What they have posted out there is not teaching our children to be inclusive and to love everyone,” Viola said.
Stark’s home and display were vandalized last week.
Vandals defaced Stark’s Confederate flags and swastikas, scrawling the words “Nazi scum” on his trailer and pickup, the New York Times reported.