Symbol of hatred associated with white supremacy displayed at Durango school board meeting – The Durango Herald

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Woman says she posted SS Bolts to reflect governing body ‘tyranny’

A woman posted Nazi images on Tuesday after her public speaking segment was interrupted on Zoom during a board meeting for Durango School District 9-R. (Durango Herald file)

First it was COVID-19 policies, then it was critical race theory and now it seems white supremacist imagery that took center stage in a meeting of the Board of Trustees of Durango School District 9-R.

On Tuesday, the SS Bolts symbol – a white supremacist, neo-Nazi symbol that was adopted by the Schutzstaffel (SS) of Nazi Germany – was displayed digitally by a virtual participant in the regular school board 9-R Meet held Tuesday. The symbol was accompanied by the word “Tyranny” in bold black type.

Student board representative Hays Stritikus was the first to notice the SS Bolts symbol which briefly appeared on the Zoom window of virtual participant and Durango resident Britny Hanson just as the public participation segment of the meeting was drawing to a close.

“Someone is showing Nazi propaganda on the webcam,” Stritikus said.

Hanson spoke earlier during the audience participation segment, but his audio was quickly cut off because Hanson violated the school district’s audience participation. guidelinessaid school board chair Kristen Smith.

Kristin Smith, Durango School District 9-R Board Member

“Once again, we’re having an online school board meeting because you keep inventing laws that don’t exist to prevent taxpayers from entering the building that (we’re paying for),” Hanson said. “However, it doesn’t really matter. You will not stay in your place forever.

Hanson then said she was excited about a lawsuit filed Monday against school board and district spokesperson Julie Popp, the election official designated for the school board election. In a previous interview with The Herald DurangoHanson took credit for contributing to the research that forms the basis for the charges in the trial against school board candidate Andrea Parmenter, although Hanson does not appear as a plaintiff in the trial.

School board vice president Erika Brown said Hanson held his phone up to his web camera and his phone displayed an image of the SS Bolts.

Smith said that after Stritikus called up the Nazi images, Smith asked someone moderating the Zoom meeting to remove Hanson from the meeting.

In an interview with the Herald, Hanson said she posted the SS Bolts because she wanted to point to the “tyranny” the school board assumed.

“As a Native American, I am disgusted that they are playing this race card, security card,” said Hanson. “They are trying to get rid of their tyrannical and abusive behavior.”

Hanson said she is from the Muscogee Nation.

When asked what she meant by “tyrannical and abusive,” Hanson said, “I just feel like these are the comments I need to make.”

When asked again about what was tyrannical about the conduct of the school board, she repeated that she was “disgusted” that the school board “played the race card.”

“I’m offended by what they called me,” Hanson said. “… They called me a white supremacist, yes they did.”

Hanson’s presentation of the SS Bolts caused a sensation this week on social media, with many Facebook users denouncing the use of such images. But even after the online firestorm, and claiming to have used the symbol to imply the school board was “tyrannical and abusive,” Hanson claimed on Friday that she was unfamiliar with the use of the symbol by hate groups. and the Nazis.

“I just know their tyrannical behavior is what is reflected right now,” Hanson said. “… I know there are tyrants. I know that. I know my Native American history. And that’s what I know. “

Smith said Hanson disrupted previous board meetings.

“So there’s kind of a long pattern or a long history of that,” Smith said.

School board members said they started holding board meetings almost in part because of Hanson’s disruption. When informed of this Friday, Hanson reaffirmed that she was disgusted that the board of directors was withdrawing the race and safety card.

Smith said Hanson yelled at board members at previous mask policy meetings. In August, she refused to move from her chair or leave the school building after a meeting was canceled because audience participants refused to wear masks or respect public health presence limits .

At the September 28 school board meeting, Hanson said the school mask policies were harming children in the district and cited a Bible verse suggesting that it is better to kill yourself than to harm a child.

“It was better for him to have a millstone hanging from his neck and throw it into the sea, than to offend one of these little ones,” she says, reading Luke 17: 2.

At the same meeting, Hanson publicly declared the Durango school board to be his “enemy” and also referred to Superintendent Karen Cheser and Smith by name.

“I see this as a threat, a real threat, actually,” Smith said in an interview on Friday. “I think that is the purpose of these statements, to intimidate and make you feel threatened.”

Smith said she wasn’t sure if there was something behind what she called Hanson’s threats, and added that Hanson isn’t the only person to upset the school board.

“He’s not just a member of the community,” Smith said. “But it’s a small group of them.”

Brown said she viewed both situations from the September 28 and Tuesday meetings as examples of hate speech.

“To be fair, everyone who was there both nights was pretty shaken up after that,” Brown said. “And there are, you know, staff who don’t feel safe. Board members who do not feel safe.

Smith said the school district recently hired a new board clerk, who happens to be a person of color, and the clerk was offended and scared after the Nazi pictures were posted on Tuesday night.

“The local Jewish temple contacted me and they were pretty disappointed,” Smith said. “We have several Jewish students, especially in our high school and in all of our schools. This kind of signage is really offensive to them, their families and their faith. “

Student representative “horrified”

Stritikus, a junior at Durango High School, a self-proclaimed member of the LGBT community and a student representative on the board, said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the SS Bolts appear in the Hanson’s Zoom window. He said he was completely shocked and outraged that someone displayed Nazi pictures at a public school board meeting.

“My great-grandfather fought in WWII against the Nazis,” Stritikus said in an interview on Friday. “My grandmother immigrated to America after the Nazis burned down her village. She remembers hiding in caves so the Nazis wouldn’t kill her.

“I was just horrified that someone would post this at a public board meeting for no reason. I thought it was just childish and shameful.

Stritikus said he couldn’t speak to Hanson’s true intention, but he guessed that she was comparing the school board to the Nazi regime that systematically murdered millions of people for their political and religious beliefs and affiliations, their status. ethnicity, skin color and sexual orientation. .

“I just think it’s absurd to compare being muted at a school board meeting because you broke a very clear and reasonable set of rules with a regime that has genocided millions of people. “said Stritikus. “I think that was a little ridiculously absurd.”

Stritikus said Hanson disrupted previous meetings, but none in relation to his actions on Tuesday night.

“I don’t want to have to be the adult in the room to point it out and police her, but it’s unfortunate that this has happened,” Stritikus said.

The student council member has already seen his fair share of confrontation, too. At a special school board meeting in August on COVID-19 school policies, he said a crowd of attendees caused many disruptions and explosions.

Stritikus spoke to the crowd to share his take on using the mask as a student: he said his grandmother and grandfather were diagnosed with cancer and his mother had breast cancer.

“I think masking protects our community; it’s not about protecting you, ”Stritikus said. “It’s about protecting those who are vulnerable. I don’t think they liked to hear that. Again, I respect people who disagree with my opinion, but I was shocked at how they chose to do so.

One person interrupted Stritikus while he was speaking, and a few other people booed him when he shared his thoughts on using the mask.

Stritikus wasn’t the only student to see the symbol of hatred at Tuesday’s meeting. Twenty-five to 30 children were watching the reunion for a class assignment, Smith said.

“For our public participation, we are forcing everyone to follow a fairly simple set of rules,” Stritikus said. “One of the rules is that you can’t name district employees. She appointed a district employee, and President Smith cut her microphone. She was clearly mad at this and decided to flaunt the SS Bolts.

The Durango 9-R School Board released a statement regarding the incident on Wednesday evening:

“The Durango 9-R School Board unequivocally condemns all forms of hate speech and will not allow hostile acts to distract from our efforts to foster vibrant, safe and inclusive environments for all students, families and children. 9-R staff. Hate speech has no place in our community, and it is incumbent upon all of us to speak out against anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry, where and when they occur. We are all committed to using our powers, our policies, our actions and our laws to seek inclusion, fairness and respect for all. “

cburney@durangoherald.com


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