The Nazi flag found flying over West High School in the early morning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day was more talked about than seen.
The flag was flown from a flagpole at the school and was reported by a resident of the area to have been seen as early as 8 p.m. Jan. 20. The flag wasn’t removed until 12:30 a.m. Monday; few people saw the flag other than in news footage.
Many Bakersfield College students heard about the incident at West High School from local news stations. Some students actually chuckled when questioned about the flag finding irony in the harmless act, going as far as to call it humorous. Most were disappointed that someone would raise a flag displaying a swastika on a day intended to celebrate racial tolerance.
For the past 10 years, as long as Director or Public Safety Mark Graf has been at BC, there has not been a bias crime incident. Agreeing with the Cleary Act, Public Safety is required to investigate and report any potential hate crime.
According to Graf, offenders would be turned over to the dean of students or the vice president, and face the maximum penalty of being expelled from all colleges in California.
After an administrative inquiry, the situation would be looked at in perspective, “Depending on the severity of the situation, the intention of the offender and how it’s received by the offended,” and then it would be handled, said Graf.
The motive as to why someone raised the flag can only be speculated.
It is suspected that it was flown intentionally on Dr. King’s holiday, which would fall under the FBI definition of a hate crime.
The FBI currently defines a hate crime as “a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.”
The majority of hate crimes are race related. The second most common is prejudice against religion. Due to the rising number of crimes motivated by bias, the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 was passed by congress requiring the Uniform Crime Reporting Program to collect and manage data on related crimes.
Hate crime laws we have today were first instituted by Congress in 1968 and allows federal prosecution for crimes that are “motivated by bias based on race, color, religion, or national origin and the assailant intended to prevent the victim from exercising a ‘federally protected right’ such as the right to vote or attend school,” according to http://www.civilrights.org.
Arguments have been made against hate crime legislation, saying that it infringes upon the First Amendment and the right to free speech.
Tim Martin, a political science major, believes the argument against hate crime legislation is “true to some extent, but the line should be drawn at violence. You should be able to say what you want even if it’s not popular.”