Anti-Semitic Holocaust Denial Banner over Hwy 113 Causes Concern

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – On Sunday afternoon, a group of men dressed in black were spotted on the Hwy 113 bike overpass with banners unfurled stating, “Communism Is Jewish” and “The Holocaust Is An Anti-White Lie.”

According to the incident report, at 3 pm, the banner was spotted.  One of the witnesses confronted the subjects and attempted to remove the signs.  A verbal argument ensued but there were no injuries reported.

“The subjects were filming encounters with counter-protesters and law enforcement and may have been trying to illicit responses,” the police report stated.  “They took down the signs and left on foot, later displaying their signs on the Russell Blvd overpass, according to the Davis Police.

Witnesses identified four white adult males, wearing all black clothing and black masks.

According to Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel, “They were dressed in black with faces covered.  UCD Police didn’t detain them and they lost them on campus before they could ID them or any vehicles.”

University police have determined this to be a hate incident of concern to the campus community.

In a statement from Chancellor Gary May on Sunday, “We are sickened that anyone would invest any time in such cowardly acts of hate and intimidation. They have no place here. We encourage our community to stand against anti-Semitism and racism. Our Principles of Community remind us to “strive to build and maintain a culture based on mutual respect and caring.””

He added, “White supremacy, hate and intimidation have no place here.”

Davis Mayor Lucas Frerichs added, “I am disturbed to see the photos of these banners being hung from a prominent local overpass.  Hate has no place in Davis, and a common denominator to Holocaust deniers is Anti-Semitism.  As Mayor, I unequivocally stand in support with our Jewish community in Davis, UC Davis and beyond.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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37 Comments

  1. PhillipColeman

    The act was despicable, of course. But the clear intention was to provoke a response, and it did. The provocateurs achieved what they were looking for, more publicity and potential recruitment for their perverted cause.

    Their actions may be classified as a “hate incident,” and the use of precious and limited police resources likely had to be deployed to preserve the peace. But the police are prohibited from taking any enforcement action, all of the actions by the provocateurs are protected free speech. And when the police do arrive, the instigators try to provoke them to do something unlawful and be filmed doing it.

    Public leaders are invariably contacted for a response as was the case here. They have far more important matters in front of them at the time, but they must respond for fear of being accused of being silent supporters or sympathizers. More publicity for the haters.

    The ideal response to discourage future events of this nature would be for everyone to completely ignore the signs and shouts. After a while, with nobody honking their horns, or walking up to them in confrontation, nobody called the police,  they’d soon become bored and return to their own dark miserable world of isolation and bigotry. One knows that this will never happen, a free society is easily provoked and thousands of media outlets wait anxiously to publish. Yet it remains the one certain solution in response to this disgusting type of public behavior.

    1. Ron Oertel

      In contrast, I’d like to see more politicians put forth statements such as Phillip’s, above.

      I’d also like to see some of them go a little further, and remind folks that this is part of living in a country with free speech. This is not a “hate crime”, and “hate incidents” has no legal meaning. Some seem to purposefully misunderstand this difference, which then encourages a “mob mentality”. Exactly what these types of protestors may be hoping for, as noted by Phillip.

      I suspect that some politicians (not the ones you mention) use incidents like this to drum-up support for themselves or their organizations.  (Frankly, I believe that a former DA in California recently attempted to do this, in regard to Asian hate crimes.  But, it didn’t help him.)

      Real leaders don’t do this. Is it “brave” to condemn these types of incidents? I don’t think so. Probably the easiest, most meaningless thing that any politician or leader can do.

      1. Ron Glick

        I didn’t see anyone say they don’t have free speech rights. Whether or not its a hate crime it is certainly hateful and ignorant. It is interesting that Ron O., while being a defender of free speech, fails to make a full throated condemnation of the content of the  speech he believes should be protected. One can do both.

        As for legality, I don’t know if hanging banners from overpasses is protected speech. I’m not sure but as I recall there are laws governing such actions that can interfere with traffic safety.

        Thanks to Matt Rexroad.

        1. David Greenwald

          There are a lot of interesting issues here.

          As you note, hanging banners from an overpass is probably not protected speech

          There are big debates as to what extend lies are protected speech.

        2. Bill Marshall

          The question could also be, “is producing items distracting drivers in 1 + ton machines, travelling @ 65-70 + MPH ‘protected speech’ (meant to provoke reactions)[and distractions?],,,  I think NOT. Regardless of ‘content’…

          Like falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater… that has been determined NOT to be ‘protected speech’…

          Fortunately, SR 113 is not that crowded, but still…

          This was a childish, irresponsible, un-thinking ‘prank’ (being very charitable)… the folk responsible should be ‘spanked’ or ridiculed as the ignorant, childish, stupid, impotent folk they are

          But, unless there was a crash due to it, NOT prosecuted, legally… but sanctioned/counselled/derided, YES.

           

  2. David Greenwald

    One of the lessons of the Holocaust was the failure of good people to speak out before it was too late…

    First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    —Martin Niemöller

     

    1. Ron Oertel

      There’s so many “speaking out” these days (or sometimes doing something worse in response) that it’s become cliche’.

      I’d like to see someone in Gary May’s position (in particular) remind everyone that this country is supposed to protect free speech.  (Someone might want to remind the ACLU of that, as well.) 

      Use it as a real teaching moment, rather than meaningless (or worse) posturing – which likely has the opposite effect than intended.

       

       

       

    2. Bill Marshall

      One of the lessons of the Holocaust was the failure of good people to speak out before it was too late…

      And according to several sources, Martin Niemöller did not speak out until it was too late… indications are that he not only supported the Nazis in the early 30’s, but was antisemitic, except in retrospect… one set of sources,

      Martin Niemöller – Wikipedia

       

  3. Don Shor

    Ignoring anti-Semitism has generally not been a good policy in the past. These groups are increasing in visibility and are networking with each other and becoming more radical, more numerous, and more dangerous as they do so. I suggest that increasing awareness is actually a better practice.

  4. Ron Oertel

    Contrast how the “leaders” are responding to this minor incident, vs. this one:

    https://www.davisenterprise.com/news/local/community-leaders-to-speak-out-today-about-islamic-center-sermon/

    Ultimately, some of the local leaders essentially stood in solidarity with this religious leader.  Essentially, “helping” him to apologize.

    At first, this religious leader denied that there was a problem with what he said to his followers at all:

    https://www.davisenterprise.com/news/local/davis-imam-insists-sermon-wasnt-anti-semitic/

    There’s an underlying problem here, in regard to how different groups are viewed and treated (e.g., vilified).  And one that no one addresses.

    I’d say that it’s far more dangerous when religious leaders spout this stuff to their followers, vs. a handful of (probably non-local – and however else you want to describe them) on an overpass seeking to provoke.

    1. Ron Oertel

      But for either of these parties, I support their right to free speech.

      And, I’d call the cops if I saw anyone trying to hurt them.

      That’s what “real” leaders would say and do (while simultaneously condemning what they say).

      What our “actual” leaders say and do ultimately encourages violence – the opposite of what they (apparently) think they’re doing.

    1. Keith Olson

      You can’t let this stuff go unchallenged.

      Yes you can and should challenge it but it’s looking like the only person in the whole BYU sports arena who supposedly heard the slurs was Rachel Richardson herself.   Investigations are coming up empty.  She said she was hearing slurs the whole game (every single one of her serves and throughout the match) but BYU had stationed police officers in the section where she said the slurs were coming from and they heard nothing.  BYU sent extra ushers to the section and they heard nothing.  No other fans heard any slurs either.  All audio/video of the game is also coming up empty.  Did she mistakenly think she heard slurs or is this another Jussie Smollett or Duke lacrosse hoax?

      You’re right David, this stuff shouldn’t go unchallenged.

      https://www.byucougarchronicle.org/post/exclusive-racist-comments-at-byu-volleyball-game-never-happened-sources-suggest

       

       

       

      1. Keith Olson

        What, no opinion or response to this David.

        You’re the one who brought attention to the BYU incident and tried to use it to make a point.

        Now that it has all the markings of being fabricated or at the very least someone hearing something that no one else out of 5000 in attendance so far has said they heard even though it was supposed to have been shouted throughout the match.

         

  5. Ron Oertel

    Yeah, I’m *sure* that “condemning” this message will cause these guys (and others who might end up joining them, partly due to the notoriety they receive) to “rethink” their ways. And if (instead), they’re just ignored – that apparently implies “tacit approval” in the minds of some, thereby causing this group to vastly increase their size and influence.

    And that predictably speaking up (at the expense of free speech) will bring peace and harmony to the world, thereby causing these groups to wither-away.

    I’m thinking of a “man on the street” type interview, where the interviewer asks for an opinion regarding what they think of the banner/message.

    Not sure if readers on here are familiar with Ren and Stimpy, but one of the characters was a horse who was periodically asked for his opinion in regard to an obvious, negative (usually horrible) situation.  To which he would give it some “deep thought”, and then say something like – “no sir, I didn’t like it”.

    My fifth comment.

    1. Bill Marshall

      “bullies” and liars that are “wanna-be’s” can be dangerous… they (if ignored) can escalate until they get ‘attention’ (or worse yet, ‘power’ [perceived or actual]).  [Notice the word “can”, NOT the word “will”]

      Bullies need to be identified and society needs to ‘sanction’ them… by confrontation, shunning, ridicule, combination… worst cases, legal system, but that should be last resort… many cultures have found that effective (non-legal)… personally, I’ve used confrontation and ridicule, and found them effective… bullies (which these folk seem to be) like to posture, to threaten… makes up (to them) for their low self-esteem… bullies cannot be ignored…

      These folks ‘hand-sign’ is a raised hand, index finger @ a 90 degree angle, the code for “impotent power!”  It is unlikely that they are true socio-paths (a different issue, entirely), but they seem more like immature, weak, folk, whose “works” should not be tolerated, when like the ‘little children’ they are, “act out”… the adults in the room should “call” their ‘acting out’, and make clear it is unacceptable.

      A nuance on Phil’s take, not a dismissal of his suggested approach… the problem with leaving such signs in place, not confronting (sternly but peaceably) confronting them, is that others, ‘offended, acting out’, is MADS… Mutually Assured Dumb Syndrome… that can easily escalate into actual criminal actions… and resultant need for invoking the criminal law system…

      We should identify these folk, and confront (not prosecute) them… and/or ridicule them…

      1. Bill Marshall

        This is the clue, I drew on…

        “The subjects were filming encounters with counter-protesters and law enforcement and may have been trying to illicit responses,” the police report stated.  “They took down the signs and left on foot, later displaying their signs on the Russell Blvd overpass, according to the Davis Police.
        Witnesses identified four white adult males, wearing all black clothing and black masks.

  6. Todd Edelman

    This would be protected speech if it didn’t interfere with holy traffic. I am sure there’s some relevant ordinance, and it probably would be allowed on a greenbelt path, because, you know, it’s just bikes and suchlike. I mean, there’s really nothing to distract anyone driving in other locations, yes?

    My understanding is that it would not be protected if it was targeted at a specific community in a non-general location. So outside a synagogue it would not be protected speech.

    I am really tired of Chancellor “Papa” and everyone referring to the “Principles of Community” and then perpetuating the arrogant and toxic UCD administrative culture which just loves to encourage early retirement on principled academics.

    a common denominator to Holocaust deniers is Anti-Semitism

    is a really weird thing to say. Like saying hydrogen is a common denominator to various types of water.

    I don’t identify as “white”. Mayor Partida called me “white” in a response to me suggesting that in a comment about a broken AC in her home she was being insensitive to Davis residents without good HVAC systems and other instruments of air quality equity. She did it privately, from her personal Facebook, so I guess there was no formal issue.

    Looking around the only regular example of antisemitism – by the way notice the two different spellings of this term herein? – in Davis is the “Holiday Tree”: This is because the associated events at the E St Plaza are almost all about Christmas. It’s a Christmas Tree. Just call it that, please! (We don’t call the Hanukkiah – the Hanukkah eight-candle menorah – a “Holiday Candleabra”!) As a Jew I am truly happy to celebrate Christmas with my friends who do so. Obviously this example is worse because it’s paid with our taxes!

    (I think it’s worth mentioning that both my parents are Holocaust Survivors and four of my g-grandparents were murdered in the Shoah. It’s something I deal with every day.)

    I don’t think the police should harm these people, but I don’t think that there’s an ethical and moral issue in private citizens doing so.

  7. Jean-Jacques Surbeck

    I agree with most comments above, but so far I haven’t seen any information regarding the identity of the suspects, so we’re left with speculation. Four white males clad in black with black masks? Hmmm… Who does that remind me of? Ah yes, Antifa goons, of course! But why would they do something as dumb? Well, could it be a clumsy false-flag operation? Pretty much everyone in Davis would reflexively blame some white supremacists group because… that’s the logical conclusion, right? Why don’t we wait and see if the police can identify and hopefully arrest the suspects for endangering traffic, and barring that at least expose their identities.

  8. Todd Edelman

    CA-113 is a state highway: Did our state representatives issue any statements?

    The overpass is a critical one for bicycle – and pedestrian – transportation in west Davis. Did our cycling organizations issue any statements?

    Did any Council candidate – aside from Gloria Partida – issue a statement of any sort? (Partida’s was a comment on a re-post of the statement of her organization, Davis Phoenix Coalition.)

    I would have liked to see ALL the candidates issue a joint statement.

  9. Keith Olson

    Are the posting of the signs lawful?  Might they distract drivers, bikers, pedestrians?  Great questions.

    But shouldn’t the same be said of the Black Lives Matter sign that was painted on 2nd Street a few years ago?

    And what about the subsequent denial of others who also wanted to paint signs on other streets in Davis?

    1. David Greenwald

      “Are the posting of the signs lawful?”

      they are not

      “But shouldn’t the same be said of the Black Lives Matter sign that was painted on 2nd Street a few years ago?”

      They got a permit from the city to do it.

      1. Keith Olson

        Why weren’t others who sought permits to chalk paint on streets not allowed right after the BLM paintings were?

        I remember there was a whole discussion about this.

        And if I remember right there was no council discussion or community input into the BLM signs being allowed.

        And as some others have posted here why wouldn’t the BLM sign also have endangered traffic as any other signage would?

         

        1. David Greenwald

          That’s a separate issue. The issue here is that the people who had the signs up this weekend did not receive permission to do so, and thus broke the law. The people who painted BLM received permission – whether they should have or not, is a matter of debate, but not a matter of legality.

        2. Bill Marshall

          The issue here is that the people who had the signs up this weekend did not receive permission to do so, and thus broke the law. (DG)

          So, if identified, those should face criminal charges?  Bail or no-bail?

          I don’t think the police SHOULD HARM these people, but I don’t think that there’s an ethical and moral issue in private citizens doing so. (TE)

          Scary… truly scary… payback for Shoah?  A new “Shoah”?  Vigilantism?

          Are you recommending a ‘posse comitatus’?

          Very truly scary thought…

           

    1. Ron Glick

      The problem with your whataboutism Keith is, like Ron O. above, you forgot to condemn the offensive conduct of the Holocaust denying Anti-Semitic protestors. Without such a condemnation you look like an apologist for them. Please tell us that is not the case.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Second time you made this allegation.

        In any case, I already did so – see “Mr. Horse”, above.

        Then again, I’m not a politician looking for cheap votes/support by reflexively joining the mob which doesn’t respect free speech. (Sometimes, ultimately culminating in violence instigated by those on the “self-righteous” side.)

        Essentially the modern equivalent of “kissing babies”, for politicians.

        If it helps, I’d also cite Norm MacDonald, who said something like – “the more I learn about this Hitler guy, the less I care for him”.

  10. Richard_McCann

    Why does the response by conservatives/reactionaries to criticism of extremist affiliated groups’ behavior always “what about that leftist group?” Why do conservatives/reactionaries try to implicitly justify this behavior because in their view that equivalent behavior is happening on the other side, rather than either directly defending or condemning what the extremist group has done? Why can’t conservatives/reactionaries accept that these extremist groups see in their allied views a common ground that leads to hating other groups of people and perhaps those who are more rational need to change how they express their views? Avoiding responsibility by failing to acknowledge the travesty of what happened is not a valid defense.

    Also, let’s discuss the gross difference in the power dynamics of the groups that each side are protesting. BLM is criticizing the white-dominated economic order that controls the vast majority of economic assets in our society, and the law enforcement institutions that control all of the physically coercive means in our society. Mild protest to date has made only minimal in roads into the disproportionate distribution of economic assets among classes that have been defined by explicit past policies (e.g., see FHA loan guidelines, Jim Crow laws, Mexican farmworker regulations), nor into the disproportionate incarceration and violent responses to those classes. More expressive demonstrations that make the dominant white class uncomfortable is a natural escalation–it can be solved easily by fully acknowledging and addressing the concerns of BLM and others.

    On the other hand, the extremist reactionary groups are focused on suppressing the historically dominated classes, and repeating a long discredited trope targeting another group that attempts to make scapegoats that distract from the real source of societal ills. These groups go so far as to call for imposition of segregation and apartheid, imprisonment and even extermination of these other classes, which have virtually no power in our society without allying with members of more powerful classes. It’s not possible to justify the actions of these groups in any manner except in protecting one’s own privileged special interest.

    1. Ron Oertel

      This seems like a “straw man” argument, as I haven’t seen anyone put forth any of the types of comments you allege.

      Free speech (and freedom from violence) are not a “left/right” issue.  In fact, it’s not even a political issue, until some try to make it one. Sometimes, to “justify” the reason that they believe free speech should be forcibly shut down.

      The political arguments you put forth above are along those same lines of “justifying” the elimination of free speech. That’s what ultimately/sometimes leads to violence.

      There are people on both sides of the spectrum who initiate violence, due to their political beliefs. And yet, some see nothing wrong with that – even if they’re not directly initiating violence, themselves.

    2. Keith Olson

      As for me I have put forward if one wants to claim that the signage on the overpass created a safety hazard then they also should’ve complained about the BLM signage on 2nd Street also being a safety hazard.  You can’t have it both ways.

    3. Keith Olson

       BLM is criticizing the white-dominated economic order that controls the vast majority of economic assets in our society, and the law enforcement institutions that control all of the physically coercive means in our society. Mild protest to date

      Mild protest?  How many people got hurt or killed from the BLM summer protests?  How many buildings were burned, stores looted, etc?  I’ve read estimates that the damage amounted to over $2 billion.  So that’s considered mild protest?

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