DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Vandals have defaced the artwork and property of an Iowa man who displayed paintings of Confederate flags and swastikas in his front yard.
The vandal or vandals scrawled the words “Nazi scum” on a trailer and the pickup parked at William Stark’s house in Des Moines and spray-painted over several of the wooden pallets in his yard on which he had painted the Confederate battle flag, the Des Moines Register reported. The vandalism was discovered Wednesday.
Stark told the newspaper for a story earlier last week that he isn’t a racist or white supremacist and would paint any flag, if asked. His home, which is next to Morris Elementary School, drew public attention after someone posted a photo of his artwork on Facebook.
Stark said he had already sold the painting of a flag with a swastika. He said he displayed it in his front yard because the buyer dared him to do it.
“He dared me to put it out with the rebel flags because he knew I got grief about the rebel flags,” Stark told Des Moines station KCCI.
Stark’s paintings are easily visible to students at the school, more than 60% of whom are children of color, according to a school district spokesman, Phil Roeder.
In a statement, the district said it has worked with the police to ban Stark from school property because of “numerous conflicts” he and others at the home have had with the district.
“We should all be sickened that someone would promote the hatred espoused by Confederates and Nazis within sight of the front doors of an elementary school,” the district said.
Al Setka, a spokesman for the city government, said Stark is within his rights to display the flags.
“While the city may find these signs inappropriate and repugnant, particularly when displayed near an elementary school attended by students of diverse backgrounds, it must be noted that these residents have First Amendment rights protecting their freedom of speech, especially in and around their homes,” he said.
The Anti Defamation League considers the swastika and Confederate flag as symbols of hate.
Stark blamed “society today” for the complaints over the flags. He said the swastika flag is historical because it was what the Germans painted on their airplanes during World War II. He said he thought it was in “better taste” than the standard Nazi flag that contains just the swastika.
When asked what he would say to a hypothetical Holocaust survivor who has concerns about the pallets, Stark said: “I’m sorry for their luck, but I don’t mean nothing by it. I don’t judge you. Only person that’s supposed to judge me is the Lord, you know what I mean? I don’t judge nobody else, don’t judge me.”