Neo-Nazis in Greenpoint
Walking down the street in Brooklyn, you’ll see many types of self-expression. Multi-ethnic neighborhoods are decorated with different national flags, gay pride flags, statues of saints and now swastikas.
A local photographer released a series of photographs featuring Neo-Nazis. The photographer, Adam Krause took the photographs in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. A few were taken in their home with Nazi flags as the backdrop. The local community was shocked and outrage. Krause censored his art by removing the photographs from his website after receiving international backlash. Krause should have stood by his art and kept his photographs online, despite social repercussions. His photographs and the people in them are protected by the first amendment. It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Just the word Nazi makes the majority of people’s blood boil, which is more than understandable. But, we must remember freedom of expression is essential for a free society and that every citizen has that right. The majority of responses from the local community are that the photographs are offensive. They create feelings of hate, anger and fear. Many want the Neo-Nazis out of the neighborhood. People are not recognizing the hypocrisy of hating a group of people for hating a group of people. The demand for removal of these photographs and the Neo-Nazis themselves seems hypocritical. New Yorkers boast about being more liberal and open-minded than the rest of the country. But, we feel a collective need to censor a photographer and monitor a small group of people based on their belief systems. New York is considered the cultural Mecca of the world and has a high population of the so-called intellectual creative class. Regardless of that reputation, we jumped to anger and fear instead of having a discussion on hatred and freedom of speech in America. The sad fact of freedom of speech allows people to express hatred, as long as it is done in nonviolent and legal ways. Believing in freedom of speech means we must defend the rights of people we disagree with, or in some cases people that hate us. The Supreme Court case, National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, ruled that states can’t infringe on first amendment rights andallowed Nazis to have a rally in Skokie, Illinois. A Jewish lawyer, Burton Joseph, who worked for the American Civil Liberties Union, represented the Nazis. Burton Joseph believes in freedom of speech so strongly that he fought for people who hated him. He is a noble example of standing by your principles no matter what.
The Fact that the majority of the locals were shocked and surprised that there are Neo-Nazis in their neighborhood means that they are a very small minority and are not an organized threat. People should take comfort in that. There have been a few sightings of swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti in the area. The NYPD should patrol the Greenpoint area for vandalism, violence and other illegal activities. It’s the NYPD’s job to ensure the security of New Yorkers, while allowing all citizens to use their rights to express themselves in accordance with the law.
The Neo-Nazis should continue to express themselves within their rights. The shaved heads and swastika flags are rational ways to express their identity. They need to stop the graffiti and never resort to violence and hate crimes. Once they cross that line, there isn’t any way to justify it in the eyes of the law.
The freedom to express ourselves in a country with many diverse belief system means that people are going to be offended. There is no way around that. All the opposition can do is express their own beliefs and hope that social norms gravitate towards their views. The opposition in Greenpoint should create educational programs in schools and religious institutions condemning hate speech and promoting diversity. There are over 8 million people in New York City. A handful of non-organized Nazis should not be seen as a threat to New York’s ability to accept diverse cultures.