'Shocked beyond belief:' Nazi flag displayed on tree in Wake County causes outrage

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A symbol of hate hammered to a tree in Wake County has caused quite the backlash and led to multiple attempts to remove the symbol.

The controversy revolves around a flag on a tree across the street from Wakefield High School.

Neighbors say the tree has had a Confederate Flag affixed onto it for quite some time. However, recently the property owner covered the flag another one that's also offensive: a Nazi flag.

"I was dumbfounded like, 'who put up a swastika?'" Margaux Kessler said. "I was shocked, beyond belief."

Kessler lives nearby. She first saw the swastika flag Wednesday, and she tried to take it down.

However, the property owner confronted her, eventually bringing her to tears.

"I was actually on my way to the gym and I could not get it off my mind, so I turned around and I went home and I grabbed a stepladder and scissors and I tried to cut it down," Kessler said.

In a video she shared with ABC11, the property owner tells her: "You do not have the right to come on my land and destroy my property. You do not have that right."

Kessler said the property owner told her that he was a "proud American," while he defended his decision to display the flags -- which both represent regimes that fought against the United States in the two deadliest wars in the country's history.

He then put up a sign warning people to stay off his property.

"It's a true disgrace to our community," Kessler said. "I can only imagine how the Jewish community feels. I'm sure they feel extremely threatened, and it is a disgrace to the thousands upon thousands of US soldiers that died and fought in World War II against the Nazi regime."

Renters who live where the controversial flags have been displayed at one point put up their own sign to tell passersby that they were not responsible for the symbols of hate.

A spokesman with the Wake County Sheriff's Office confirmed that the Nazi flag was put up by the landlord, not the renters. The spokesman also said that displaying the flag did not constitute any crime and the sheriff's office could not do anything to remove it.

However, that did not keep other people from taking matters into their own hands.

Overnight, someone used black spray paint to cover the swastika on the Nazi flag.

Then on Thursday, a man came by to rip down the swastika flag. He then put an American flag over the top of the Confederate flag.

Rabbi Eric Solomon, of Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh, said hearing about the swastika flag was upsetting.

"We are outraged," Rabbi Solomon said. "This is an attack not only on the Jewish community. For us it goes very, very deep, as many understand, but it really is an attack on America and it's an attack on the fabric of what our country is about so we are deeply, deeply troubled this happened in our own neighborhood."

Soloman was part of a group of Jewish leaders that released the following statement about the incident:

"Yesterday a Nazi flag with a Swastika was seen hanging under a Biden campaign sign on private property in Wake County.

The Jewish Community stands with all Americans against the display of this symbol of hate.

The Swastika is a universal symbol of hate representing fear and intimidation against the 'Other' including Jews, Muslims, People of Color, and members of the LBGT community. In fact, the Nazi symbol is an attack against every American.

Such a gratuitous and offensive display of the Nazi Flag has no place in Wake County or anywhere else. We recognize the Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech, including bigoted, racist and anti-Semitic expressions like these. However, we stand united in condemning this repugnant and highly inappropriate display.

Wake County residents are people who appreciate each other and each other's differences. We ask the homeowners to recognize the deep pain caused by the display of the Nazi flag. Further, we encourage all citizens of good will across Wake County to stand against the display of the Nazi flag, other symbols of hate which includes the Confederate flag, as well as other acts of hate in our community."
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