Update: This story was updated on Sept. 28 to reflect additional information provided by a resident.
MANISTEE — Following reports last week of swastikas painted on roads in Filer Township, a Manistee area resident is reporting the same symbol appearing in downtown Manistee.
Manistee Area Racial Justice and Diversity Initiative member Bruce Allen previously the News Advocate in an interview last week, "It's not all over downtown," referring to swastikas found in Filer Township.
However, Rhonda Greene said that's not quite true. Greene said she found several swastikas downtown by the Riverwalk over the past weeks.
In emails to the News Advocate, Greene said, "My husband and I have removed multiple swastikas from the Riverwalk in the last few weeks. I have video of myself rubbing out one that was drawn in chalk near the U.S. 31 Bridge on Sept. 17, and we have also done the same on several other occasions at various points along the Riverwalk (and in the downtown district)."
She said one incident occurred, "next to where the stairs go up to the parking lot of the former House of Flavors. The same day there were also hate symbols drawn with chalk on the concrete near the bench and flower bed just east of the Maple Street Bridge.
"We walk the Riverwalk from end to end multiple times a week so they couldn’t have been there for more than a day or two before we removed them. We also removed one on another day prior to this but I don’t recall the exact date and location. On (Sept.) 17 I decided to document one of them because I was annoyed that they seemed to be suddenly everywhere."
Greene specifically said the ones she found before Sept. 17 were most likely by kids because she said, that the "arms were facing the wrong way" and that "it looked like little kids trying to imitate something they saw."
However, the one she saw on Sept. 17 was a "full-blown anti-Semitic symbol" and that the person who did it "knew what they were doing," Greene said.
Greene did not make a report to the police or Manistee City Council and simply cleaned it up. She added that she believed there were was a likelihood of others cleaning up the symbols and not reporting them.
Another Manistee resident, Paul Bosschem, also said he saw swastikas downtown as well. "I removed 2 of them at Veterans Memorial Park when I was power washing the stone and concrete. They were in chalk and came off with no problem. I just thought (it was) kids messing around. I did not report it to anyone," Bosschem said.
While the swastika is most closely associated with Nazi Germany, White Supremacists and other hate groups, the symbol far predates 1930s Europe and was not originally a symbol of hate. The symbol is ancient and can be traced back as far as the 5th-century B.C.E and is most prominent in Indian religions such as Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. In those religions, the term actually means "conducive to well-being" and symbolizes prosperity and good luck.
However, it is also a symbol that was used in many ancient European cultures and religions. A BBC article which talked of the history of the symbol pre-World War II and before the Nazi's adopted it, said that, "Single swastikas began to appear in the Neolithic Vinca culture across south-eastern Europe around 7,000 years ago. But it's in the Bronze Age that they became more widespread across the whole of Europe. In the museum's collection, there are clay pots with single swastikas encircling their upper half which date back to around 4,000 years ago."
The same BBC article notes how an old ancient symbol found its way to Nazi Germany.
"The Nazi use of the swastika stems from the work of 19th century German scholars translating old Indian texts, who noticed similarities between their own language and Sanskrit. They concluded that Indians and Germans must have had a shared ancestry and imagined a race of white god-like warriors they called Aryans.
"This idea was seized upon by anti-Semitic nationalist groups who appropriated the swastika as an Aryan symbol to boost a sense of ancient lineage for the Germanic people.
"The black straight-armed hakenkreuz (hooked cross) on the distinctive white circle and red background of the Nazi flag would become the most hated symbol of the 20th century, inextricably linked to the atrocities committed under the Third Reich," the article notes.
Courtesy of News Advocate Manistee