Swastika vaccine protest offensive, US history professor says

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Editorial Note: This story includes images that readers may find extremely offensive and hurtful. There was a heated discussion about sharing these images, and a deep concern to respect those most affected by them. Some are your neighbors, friends and family. Some of those affected are members of our KSL family. With all of this in mind, and to give every ounce of honor and respect to those who are hurt by the symbol now and the millions who have died under it, we are releasing this image to educate a wider community of its symbolism, and how that might impact those they care for.

SALT LAKE CITY – A history professor at the University of Utah weighed in on images of a vaccine swastika, or a swastika made out of syringes, on Tuesday during a vaccine protest this weekend. end.

Vaccine swastika: a symbol of hatred

Julie Ault is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Utah. She teaches about Germany during WWII and after WWII.

She says the swastika was adopted by the Nazis in the 1930s. And it’s widely accepted as a visual message of hostility.

“It’s absolutely a symbol of hatred, white supremacy, and probably one of the most recognizable symbols of hate we have today,” Ault explains.

Additionally, says Ault, the symbol is associated with one of the darkest periods in human history.

“At the heart of Nazi ideology (and the swastika substitute) was the anti-Semitism that led to the extermination of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust,” she said.

Ault also highlights the killing of people with disabilities, LGBTQ + people and other ethnic minority groups.

“Those who chose to protest added great pain to many members of our community. Although we fully support freedom of expression in our country, the use of such symbols should not be left free, ”read a statement from the United Jewish Federation of Utah.


Offensive and disturbing

For a professor so familiar with the atrocities committed by German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his regime, the comparison of public health measures with this dark period in history is unfathomable.

“[It is] incredibly offensive to a lot of people, myself included, that something like this could be taken out of context so much, ”she said. “That a public health measure, a vaccination that is widely regarded as safe, … could be equated with the tyranny of the Nazi regime and genocide.”

Ault also says this downplays the horrific nature of the symbol.

This removes the historical significance of the oppression of the Nazi regime and of Germany, and of course the murderous policies of World War II; and within that, of course, the Holocaust. ”

Hate speech or hate crime?

So what did we see on the lawn of the governor’s residence on Sunday? The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees protected freedom of expression. This includes hate speech.

The FBI is investigating hate crimes. The agency defines them as “a traditional offense such as murder, arson or vandalism with an added element of bias. “

The FBI recognizes that hate in and of itself is not a crime. The office says it is dedicated to protecting free speech and other civil liberties.

Sunday’s protest is unlikely to rise to the level of a hate crime. But Professor Ault says that doesn’t excuse him.

“If you want to make a statement, this is the way to do it, but it’s incredibly offensive at the same time,” she said.

The FBI office in Salt Lake City told KSL it would not comment on this specific incident, but instead provided the page on how hate crimes are handled.

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