Painting In Carrboro Town Hall Stirs Controversy
Nazi Symbol Outrages Employees, Citizens
POSTED: 4:34 p.m. EDT July 14, 2003
UPDATED: 5:26 p.m. EDT July 14, 2003
CARRBORO -- Is it freedom of expression or an expression of hate? A controversy is brewing in Carrboro over a piece of artwork that used to hang in the mayor's office. A painting of a swastika, the symbol of Nazism, embedded in the American flag was once on display behind Carrboro Mayor Mike Nelson's desk in Town Hall.
Some citizens are outraged, claiming
it is offensive and a defamation of the flag.
"We have no say so as to what they put on the walls; we are
expected to just deal with it. I guess they expect us to walk around
with blinders on," Annette Rogers, a Carrboro Town Hall employee,
told NBC 17.
Initially, the piece was hung in boardroom during an anti-war
art exhibit, but was then moved to the mayor's office.
Rogers said she considers it offensive no matter where it
"I've always been taught it represents hate. I feel like it
is not artwork that needs to be displayed in a government building,"
The controversy has begun to take a grip on the township as
well, with at least one citizen calling for the mayor's resignation.
Todd Melet was so offended; he began a petition to recall
"When you take the swastika and deface the American flag,
it's a double outrage to an American-Jew," said Melet. "I don't
approve of having leadership in Town Hall that believes that this is
NBC 17 was unable to reach Nelson, who is in Mexico studying
Spanish until the end of the month, for a comment.
The town manager is on vacation and Assistant Town Manger
Bing Renichk said she would not comment on the controversial
The artist behind the controversy, Hunter Levinsohn -- a Jew
-- told NBC 17 the piece has been misinterpreted. She said it was
designed to question American "freedoms."
"The swastika represents a minority of people who have a very
narrow vision of what the world should be like... I did not want my
country to become like that," said Levinsohn.
Still, some town employees have made it clear that they
consider the exhibit anti-American and believe they have the right
to request that it be removed.
For now, the controversy has forced the painting to be taken
down; it currenty rests behind the mayor's door until he returns
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