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Beachwood residents report swastika on vehicle, but police say it is protected free speech

Posted at 4:13 PM, Jun 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 16:22:21-04

BEACHWOOD, Ohio — Beachwood Police received several calls from residents about a swastika displayed on a vehicle outside a home this weekend, and while they said they were sure it was quite offensive to those who say it, no laws were broken and the symbol was constitutionally-protected free speech.

On Sunday, Beachwood police received a complaint of a suspicious black SUV parked on a driveway on Green Road, according to a news release from the City of Beachwood. The complaint was that a swastika was being displayed on the passenger side of the vehicle.

News 5 received images of the vehicle on Sunday which clearly show a red swastika on the passenger side. We have opted to blur the symbol in our coverage.

An officer responded to the area and confirmed the display of the symbol, but had no cause to take action, the news release stated.

“Although I am sure it is quite offensive to those that see it, I don't think there is anything illegal about it,” said patrol officer Jamey Appell in communication with News 5 Sunday night.

Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Entin said that although the symbol is considered offensive, hate speech is protected unless direct threats are made to an individual or group.

"Saying those things, as a general matter, is obnoxious,” Entin said. "But it's also constitutionally protected.”

At about 8:40 p.m. on Sunday night, a small group gathered on the sidewalk outside the home, police said. The group had a “calm conversation” with the occupant of the home, and a Beachwood officer who was present explained the rights each side of the conflict had.

After the conversation, the occupant of the home decided to remove the swastika from the side of the vehicle, police said.

While the swastika is an ancient religious symbol in various Eurasian, African, and American cultures, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, it is now widely recognized as the symbol of the Nazi Party.

“The City of Beachwood recognizes that this incident is concerning to the Jewish community and the community as a whole,” Beachwood officials said in the news release. “Although incidents such as this rightfully can cause fear and anxiety, there was no violation of law that the police department can act on at this time.”

According to the Department of Justice, the number of hate crimes reported in the U.S. in 2020 with race, ethnicity, or ancestry as the motivating bias increased by about 31% from the previous year.


In 2021, the Southern Poverty Law Center tracked 20 hate groups in Ohio, including one chapter of the neo-Nazi group The Daily Stormer in Worthington, Ohio, and nine chapters of “general hate” and White Nationalist groups around the state.

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