In the past 24 hours, two community members have sent us photos that show Confederate flags in the windows of an East 8th Street building. While, the flags have apparently been displayed for months, the terrible events in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend have prompted neighbors to speak out about the situation and, in some cases, to throw rocks at the windows. Police responded to the scene yesterday.
Mike Schweinsberg, president of the ABCD block association, said police blocked off the area around 8th Street and Avenue D at around 11 o’clock last night. “We don’t want a riot here,” he told the News. The tabloid obtained video from earlier in the day Wednesday showing a man tossing rocks at the sixth floor windows. “The cops went up there, there was absolutely no response to repeated knocks on the door,”Schweinsberg said. “So the idea now is that they’re going to reach out to the landlord and ask for something to be hung from the roof to cover it up. That way hopefully he will communicate.”
At various times, neighbors say, the Confederate flags have been joined by Israeli flags. As you can see from the photos, there’s also an American flag in one of the windows. The building manager has reportedly tried to get the man to remove the flags. A neighbor, who declined to give his name, said, “He is a Jew with a Confederate flag! Are you kidding me?”
One resident, identified as Mary C. said, “It’s disrespectful, it’s disrespecting the whole neighborhood… It’s not about hating him or trying to hurt him . . . but we need to sit him down and let him know in this neighborhood it’s not a good idea.” Another local, Louise Abddhal, told the Post, “(The flags are) scary, we don’t know who we are dealing with in the neighborhood. I feel uncomfortable because that represents evil. I see the protests in the news and I come home and see this.”
As EV Grieve noted in a story earlier this morning, Matt Stopera of Buzzfeed offered the following observation on Twitter Saturday evening: “If you think awful racism isn’t everywhere, then wake the fuck up!”
Police plan to keep a patrol car in the area, the News reported, but they can’t force the man to take the flags down. “They can’t knock the guy’s door down and say, ‘hey, don’t fly that flag.’ It’s not Nazi Germany,” a Daily News police source said.
The Daily Beast spoke with the building super, Ruben Vargas, who said neighbors for some time have been scared of the man in the apartment. One resident moved out, he said, “because he goes off on a rampage inside the apartment throwing things around.” Several people described the man as mentally ill. He’s lived in the building for about 12 years.
UPDATE 12:02 p.m. City Council member Rosie Mendez has put out a statement regarding the situation on East 8th Street:
Recently, I was made aware that confederate flags were hung in the windows of an apartment building in my district. It saddens me that a symbol of hate and oppression would be displayed in my district—a multi-ethnic district that is comprised of and embraces its racial and economic diversity. More troubling is that these flags remain in display after the tragic and fatal events that occurred in Charlottesville this weekend. I am concerned as I am hearing that local community residents are upset by the display and are taking some matters into their own hands. There have been reports made to my office of counter actions taking place at the residence that are alarming and illegal. You can voice your displeasure, but you cannot throw objects at the windows, to the building or block anyone’s entrance or exit to the building. While this display may be offensive to many of us, please know that each and every one of us has rights and protections under the United States Constitution. We all have a First Amendment Right to Free Speech. Displaying a flag, in and of itself, is not illegal and there are no legal actions that can be taken to have this individual remove the flags from his/her windows. However, there are limitations to our First Amendment Right to Free Speech and if this individual steps outside of those limitations, then local law enforcement can take the next necessary steps. I want to remind everyone that this is a multiple dwelling building. Many other individuals, families with children, live in this building and are probably equally offended by the display. I ask that you please respect and support your neighbors who reside in this building and who unfortunately live next to this individual. While I do not know nor do I have any contact with this individual, I respectfully request for everyone’s safety that s/he take down this flag—a symbol that is so offensive to the surrounding community. To my neighbors, I hope you continue to exercise your First Amendment Right as we traditionally do in this community, but we must do it within the letter of the law. Please do not exceed or violate what is permitted expressions of free speech. Lastly, my staff and I have been in contact with the local precinct and we have been informed that the situation is being monitored.