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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Flag-maker says swastika flag meant no offence

A COUNCIL will consider banning Nazi flags after a Melbourne man flew swastika and SS flags outside his home.
While Carrum flagmaker Rob Boot said he meant no offence and his action was simply merchandising, Jewish groups, the RSL and state and federal MPs condemned it as insensitive.
Kingston Mayor John Ronke said he had asked Mr Boot to immediately remove the flags, but Mr Boot had agreed to do so only later that night.
"This is disgusting behaviour," Cr Ronke said.
The council is now investigating the option of a local law to ban Nazi flags.
Should displaying the swastika be banned? Vote now and have your say.
Mr Boot said he had been selling and displaying various flags for about a year and did not think flying Nazi flags was offensive.
"It would only be in really poor taste if I flew them with the Israeli flag," he claimed.
"I’m just a flag salesman and it's just merchandise to me. I’m at liberty to display what I want on my own property.
"There’s no political message behind it at all."
Anton Block, chairman of the Jewish community's B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission, said Nazi insignia brought back memories of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people.
"He's got 999 other flags to fly to promote the business. He should go with one of those," Mr Block said.
RSL state president Major-General David McLachlan said it was offensive to veterans.

“To fly those flags is very insensitive,” he said. “From a veteran’s point of view it’s very offensive.

“I think it’s very ignorant on his part. “I don’t know why any sensible Australian who values the sort of life we have here would fly the flags of the Nazi regime.”

The Kingston Council has also condemned Mr Boot, issuing a statement declaring that flying Nazi flags in the municipality was unacceptable.

Mayor John Ronke spoke with Mr Boot earlier today, asking him to take the flags down on behalf of the community, after Mr Boot refused to remove the flags when asked to do so by local laws officers.

Cr Ronke said Mr Boot said he would take the flags down tonight, but Cr Ronke said he found it deplorable the flags would continue flying for the rest of the day.

“Kingston Council does not condone flying Nazi flags and this is disgusting behaviour,” Cr Ronke said.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any enforcement powers to take the flags down, but we are doing everything we can to try and discuss the matter with the resident.”

Council also spoke with police to ensure they were aware of the issue.

Kingston Council has previously received complaints about the Nazi flags flying at the property.

In the statement the council said that Mr Boot “said he would not put it up again” after being asked to remove the flags in November last year.
Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission chairman John Searle, who is Jewish, said it was hard to believe that such flags were being flown in Melbourne.
Chaiyim Ben Ariel spotted the swastika, which is flying with another flag bearing the SS logo, while driving along Nepean Highway.
"Everyone in Australia and all over the world knows what this represents," he said.
"It is so in your face. According to the law he is allowed to sell this crap."
Mr Ben Ariel and his friend, Yeshayah Halevi, have decided to demonstrate outside the home business in protest against the Nazi symbols.


- with Jesse Wray-McCann

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