OREGON: Swastika flag prompts hate speech proclamation

By Elissa Harrington, KVAL News

JUNCTION CITY, Ore - A swastika along Highway 36 flown on private property in Junction City is just one example of hate speech in Lane County, according to County Commissioner Pete Sorenson.

He says flags like this are legal on private property, but he still doesn't want to see them.

"This kind of hate speech is just not welcome in our community," he says.

In light of this recent swastika flag, county commissioners met late last month and voted on the "Proclamation Against Hate Speech."

Basically, commissioners are using their free speech to condemn this type of speech. They can condemn it but not change it.

"As most people know, the swastika is a symbol of hatred," says Sorenson. "We feel while we cannot regulate that kind of speech under the federal and Oregon constitution, we feel we certainly can condemn it. And that's exactly what we did."

The swastika flag is no longer up but a sign is that reads, "Barack Osoma Obama Adolf Hitler" and other names. There are several misspellings on the poster.

KVAL News wanted to talk with the homeowner but before we could, he got on his loudspeaker and told us to leave.

"There's plenty of no trespassing signs so think about it idiots," he said. "You don't have permission to film my place. You point that thing at me and I'll assume it's got a gun in it."

According to law, KVAL can shoot video as long as we stay on public property. We were filming from a public highway.

Sorenson says, though nothing legally will change because of this new proclamation, Commissioners will take a stronger stand against hate speech. They're encouraging the public to do so as well.

"They can express their point of view," he says, "but that doesn't mean the rest of us can't express our point of view that we don't like it."

Sorenson also says it's important to remember on Veterans Day how many Americans fought against hate and also fought for our rights, including free speech.

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