ASHLAND, Ore.– Photos of a house displaying a Nazi flag are making the rounds on social media causing quite a stir among people who live there and people who don’t.
While many called the flag hate speech and insensitive, some even called Ashland police but their hands are tied due to the First Amendment.
“I don’t really like the idea of a Nazi flag flying, personally,” said Trystan Stephens-Tregarth, an SOU student who lives in the area.
At a small neighborhood located on Park Street in south Ashland, a flag brandishing several Nazi symbols cut deep for many this past weekend.
“I feel like since the Nazi’s chose to do what they did and like chose to follow Hitler, that the symbol itself also represents what their mission was,” said Stephens-Tregarth.
With so much concern following the post that first went up on the Ashland Peeps Facebook page, NBC5 News attempted to reach out to the homeowner for comment. The man that answered, Phillip Eichler, agreed to talk.
“I was just flying a flag that I personally think is cool,” he said. “I like it’s looks. It’s black and red like the SOU.”
The flag was taken down by Monday morning but Eichler says he still doesn’t see the symbols as hate speech.
“Simply as a figure of a working group of functioning society,” he said describing his interpretation of the swastika.
However, to many, that’s not what those symbols mean.
“In this case a Nazi flag being flown to intimidate to diminish people, it just doesn’t have a place in our community,” said Ashland City Councilor Dennis Slattery.
But law enforcement and the city can’t do much due to the First Amendment.
“Seeing a Nazi flag is very off putting and it’s very offensive and it’s a painful reminder of a very dark chapter in human history,” said Chief Tighe O’Meara, Ashland Police Department. “But that in of itself there’s nothing illegal about it.
On social media calls for a new code enforcement law banning hate speech was making the rounds but that also won’t go anywhere as it would also infringe on freedom of speech.
“There are moments like this that I wish we did and we could be selective about it but it’s a slippery slope when you start to do that because what is one person’s hate speech and what is another’s?” said Slattery. “That’s why we have that protection.”
So while these symbols of hate can continue to fly in Ashland that doesn’t make it welcome or accepted by neighbors.
“I mean with the U.S. Constitution and freedom of speech,” said Stephens-Tregarth. “I guess he has the freedom to hang it but I don’t think it’s a very smart idea to do so.”
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