27.09.2022

New York town of Swastika votes to keep its name

An upstate New York community called Swastika has voted to keep its controversial name, despite calls to adopt another name.

Officials in the town of Black Brook, Clinton County, some 50 miles from the Canadian border, who have a domain over the hamlet, voted down proposals to change Swastika’s name in a unanimous vote, CNN reported.

Arguing that the hamlet’s founders named it after the Sanskrit word meaning “well-being” and not the Nazi symbol, the town board said Swastika was the name “their ancestors chose”.

All four members of Black Brook’s town board voted on 14 September, reported NPR, following just five minutes of discussion.

“We regret that individuals, for out of the area, that lack the knowledge of the history of our community become offended when they see the name,” said Jon Douglass, the town’s supervisor.

He told CNN: “To the members of our community, that the board represents, it is the name that their ancestors chose”

Swastika’s name predates the Second World War, said Mr Douglas, having been chosen by the hamlet’s settlers in the 1800s.

The name became associated with hate and anti-Semitism after Nazi leader Adolf Hitler adopted the symbol in the 1920s, and has come under intense scrutiny since anti-racism protests erupted across the United States this year.

“I think that’s probably, maybe some viewpoint that it’s associated with hate. But then I believe there are others that do not associate it with hate,” Mr Douglas told NPR after the town board’s decision.

“Did the Hindus and the Buddhists and all them, did they erase it from their religious history because of the Germans?”, he added.

New York City cyclist Michael Alcamo proposed the name change to Clinton County authorities following a ride past Swastika this summer, which brought the name to his attention.

According to NPR, Mr Alcamo then contacted Black Brook’s town board, who agreed to vote on the proposal.

He told the news station after the vote that he was disappointed by the town’s rejection, saying “I think it should be obvious that the town should update its name and should pick a name that is not so offensive to so many Americans and so emblematic of intolerance, hate and tyranny”.

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