When a Neighbor Displays a Swastika in His Front Yard, A Community Stands Together to Stop Him | Not in Our Town

When a Neighbor Displays a Swastika in His Front Yard, A Community Stands Together to Stop Him

In West Contra Costa County, CA, a community unites when a large swastika appears in a neighborhood AGAIN. County Supervisor John Gioia joined residents and the local NIOT group in sending a message:  We stand united against hate. Not In Our Town member Becki Cohn-Vargas shares this story of local action. 


When a community experiences hate and racism in any form, something can be done, something must be done!

In June 2019, a man erected a 10 by 10 foot swastika in his front yard in the town of El Sobrante, our small unincorporated community across the bay from San Francisco. In response, Not In Our Town, El Sobrante joined with members of our community to speak out and hold protests.

We created the Stop the Swastika petition, signed by over 48,000 people. We explained that the presence of a swastika makes many people feel unsafe to live in a community that tolerates visible expressions of hate and bigotry. We called on this man to remove the swastika.

Amidst the pressure of news coverage and complaints from his neighbors, the man covered the swastika with gravel.

To our chagrin, one year later, we discovered that he had uncovered his swastika again. We had to do something, but what?

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, our options were even more limited. We approached our supportive local County Supervisor John Gioia to help investigate what we could do from all angles. Code enforcement officials went to the man’s home, but they found no citable violations. Legally in the US this man had the right to display this symbol of hate on his private property.

Our decision: to let the people of our community speak out with their own voices to show that the majority of folks in our diverse community oppose racism and bigotry. Our video, produced by Not In Our Town, El Sobrante, together with Supervisor Gioia and United Against Hate in West Contra Costa County, features just a fraction of the many voices who stand against hate in our community.


Community members holding "Bay Area Stands United Against Hate" in West Contra Costa County, CA

Community members in pre-COVID times standing against hate in Contra Costa County, California.


Others have demonstrated their support with protests on the streets, signs in their windows and comments on social media.

NIOT signs in West Contra Costa County
Taking a stand against hate protest in El Sobrante, California. 

Sadly, this is not the first time hate has reared its ugly head here in our community. Not In Our Town, El Sobrante formed after several hate crimes in our small community. The Not In Our Town, El Sobrante Facebook Group was organized to stand up to hate in all forms in our community.

Not In Our Town, El Sobrante, Black Lives Matter, and United Against Hate signs are visible in many homes and businesses.

As the pressure mounted once again, the man covered his swastika in gravel. This time we will keep monitoring.

There is always something that can be done!

Add new comment