About 72 hours after beachgoers witnessed the disturbing sight of an airplane towing a banner which displayed swastikas over south shore beaches, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Senior Councilman Anthony J. Santino met with a throng of local religious leaders and concerned neighbors at one of the scenes where the swastikas were displayed, Town Park Point Lookout, and called on the New York State Legislature to strengthen laws that prohibit the display of hate speech at public places, including beaches, parks, government offices and buildings, among other locations.
Murray and Santino condemned the actions of the organization that supported the public display of the swastika by airplane over a number of South Shore beaches on Saturday.
“I was horrified and offended, along with thousands of families, who had to witness a sickening display of hatred at south shore beaches this weekend,” Murray said. “Subjecting families to the public display of the swastika, a universally recognized symbol of hatred, is wrong and painful for many residents. We should stand united to oppose this type of anti-Semitic and hate fueled speech. That’s why government officials and religious leaders and other groups are working together to prevent the parading of this anti-Semitic symbol on our shores and in our communities.”
“Spreading this symbol of hate is unacceptable, and we’re calling for stronger legislation to stop this from happening again,” Santino added.
The offensive display over the beach was arranged by the International Raelian Movement, which claims its mission is to rehabilitate the reputation of the swastika. The banner included a swastika, a peace sign, a heart, the name of the group’s website, as well as an image of a swastika inside the Star of David.
“I believe that nobody should minimize the pain suffered by victims of the Nazi regime under the banner of the swastika during World War II,” stated Murray. “Displaying the swastika inside a Star of David is thinly veiled anti-Semitism, and such displays are the essence of a hate crime.”
With support from New York State Assemblyman Ed Ra, Murray and Santino have called for the strengthening of section 240-31 of New York State Penal Law, which covers crimes that can be charged under the hate crime statute. The statute currently addresses the “etching, painting, drawing and placing” of swastikas, but it does not mention the “display” of swastikas. The law does cover the “displaying” of nooses, commonly seen as a symbol of racism and intimidation.
“I am pleased to be working with Supervisor Kate Murray and Councilman Anthony Santino, as well as concerned citizens, to fight anti-Semitism in all of its forms,” said Ra. “I will work in Albany to amend the hate crime statute to protect residents from the pain and humiliation that comes from those who engage in hate speech.”
“Amending the state law by adding ‘the display of’ the swastika on public or private property could make it a crime to display the hateful emblem of the Nazi regime in the future,” Murray said. “Our beautiful island is home to many who survived the evils perpetrated by the Nazi regime in World War II, and they, as well as their families, deserve much better than to be subjected to public displays of a symbol that is synonymous with the essence of evil. Though we cannot change what happened this weekend, we can take action to prevent this symbol of hate from appearing on our shores again.”