Corey Fleischer has been removing hate graffiti for seven years, but when he got a call about something at Saint-Pierre Park in Pointe-des-Cascades, west of Montreal, he says what he found was shocking.
“There was an anchor painted extremely nicely by Pointe-des-Cascades in three colours, beige with a white circle in the back of a black painted swastika,” he said.
He said there is no excuse for having something he sees as hateful in a public place, so he decided to remove the paint on the engraved swastika.
But while he was doing it, someone tried to stop him.
“The mayor showed up,” he explained. “He warned me to leave.”
He said the mayor called the police and that he was charged with destruction of property.
Some people, like Cathy Bonneville, say that the swastika actually predates the Nazis, and has different meanings.
“I’m a quilter,” she said.
“I’ve seen it before. It’s a quilting pattern also.”
She says she doesn’t use it and knows other quilters who won’t either because people don’t like it.
“If you’ve lived through the war, for you that’s bad – bad memories will come back,” she explained.
Nevertheless, she believes schools should teach the full history of the symbol.
For Fleischer, other meanings of the swastika don’t matter much anymore.
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He says the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis makes it still too painful to show publicly.
“Whatever value or whatever sign it had before this atrocity that happened in the 30’s and 40’s, is now gone,” he insisted.
In a statement, the city said that section of the park is an outdoor museum focusing on the village’s history, and they will install new plaques to better explain where the anchors came from.
There is at least one other anchor with a painted, engraved swastika.
When Fleischer found out about it, he said he’d like to remove the paint, but his lawyer advised him to stay away for now.
He’s considering taking the matter to court, to have any anchor with a swastika removed from the park.