California man defends giant concrete swastika amid backlash

A California man who constructed a giant concrete swastika in his front lawn is telling neighbors who are upset with the installation to "get over it."

Aerial images of the 10 foot by 10 foot concrete swastika in El Sobrante resident Steven Johnson's yard were first reported by local media on Tuesday, according to The Mercury News.

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Johnson told the news outlet that he does not understand why his neighbors are perturbed by the construction that he declined to classify as a swastika. He instead labeled it a “design” and “Tibetan symbol.”

“That Nazi (stuff) happened like 80 years ago,” Johnson told The Mercury News on Wednesday. “Get over it, I guess.”

“I like swastikas,” he said. “I think they look cool. … I didn’t do it to get attention. I’m not a worshiper of Nazis. I just thought it’d be a cool thing to put in there.”

Johnson said to him the image symbolizes “peace, tranquility and harmony.” 

Johnson’s concrete lawn structure, much like the image used by Nazis during World War II, tilts right, setting the Swastika apart from symbols used in Eastern religions, which face counterclockwise.

Neighbors have reportedly fumed about the structure and demanded Johnson take down the offensive symbol.

“Personally, and professionally, I find it deeply deeply offensive,” said Nancy Appel, a spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “The thing is huge, it’s in concrete and symmetrical. It appears that a lot of effort went into it.”

But Johnson said he doesn’t intend to take down the swastika.

“I don’t feel bad about putting it in,” he said. “I feel bad about everybody making such a big deal about it. It’s what America stands for. It’s my property, my choice. A few people don’t like it and now I have to remove it? I enjoy it.” 

Anti-Semitic incidents have ticked up in California since 2016, according to data from the ADL. Such incidents include the appearance of swastikas in public view.

According to the group, which tracks hate incidents nationwide, there were 341 record anti-Semitic incidents in California last year, more than any other state.