A man is displaying Nazi and Confederate flag paintings outside his house – but says it is not because he is racist.
William Stark added the Nazi flag to his front lawn display on Tuesday. He lives directly across from a public school, where officials said they are ‘sickened’ by the gesture.
Stark, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, said he makes and sells flags and only created the Nazi flag for a customer by request, which he placed on his front yard because of a dare.
‘He dared me to put it out with the rebel (Confederate) flags because he knew I got grief about the rebel flags,’ Stark said.
Stark’s paintings earned him considerable blowback after Brian Asklund snapped a photo of the display as he picked his grandson up from Morris Elementary. He later posted the photo on Facebook and hundreds of users began commenting within hours.
Asklund told KCCI he was used to the Confederate flags, but said: ‘When I saw the Nazi flag I thought, “That’s going a little overboard.”‘
However, Stark said he is not trying to promote any hateful messages and said he is not racist ‘in the slighting,’ noting his grandfather fought in World War II.Nazi death camp survivor turns 100 on Holocaust remembrance day
In a statement, Des Moines Public Schools said: ‘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.’
‘At Morris Elementary School, where more than 60% of the students educated are children of color, students see these symbols of hate when they arrive and leave school or are simply on the playground.’
When asked if he understands why people are offended, Stark said, ‘Yeah, because they don’t know what their history is. They turn things into different things. It could be religious if you know what a swastika is.’
He said he hopes parents will use the flags to teach their kids about history, but parents at the school do not appreciate the conversation piece.
‘I would just like him to sit down and think and honestly what he’s trying to say to these children,’ Asklund said.Invasion Day protests as Australia marks anniversary of British colonisation
The Des Moines Police Department said they have been contacted by the school district.
Police asked the public not to damage Stark’s property, but KCCI reported that the display had been vandalized by what appears to be black spray paint on Wednesday.
Stark said the next flag he plans to paint and display is the LGBTQ rainbow flag.