A landscaping design in the East Bay had neighbors in an uproar Tuesday as an El Sobrante man carved what appears to be a massive swastika into his front yard.
The Nazi symbol could be seen in aerial views of the home owned by Steven Johnson, who claimed it’s a Tibetan symbol from centuries ago.
Neighbors weren’t buying that explanation, but they also said Johnson means no harm.
“It doesn’t represent anything,” Johnson said. “That represents me not having to pull weeds over in that part of my yard; that’s what it represents to me. What does it represent to you?”
Neighbors see it as a swastika, and they say it’s offensive. Renee Schultz, who is Jewish and has been a neighbor of Johnson‘s for 27 years, said he’s never done anything like this before.
“I was very clear with him about my feelings,” she said. “I don’t agree with it; I think it’s wrong. I don’t like it, but it is his yard.”
The yard also has a peace sign in it not far from other swastika-looking symbols around the doorbell.
Johnson at times expressed ignorance about the symbol associated with hatred and racism.
“What is a swastika?” he asked.
Neighbor Vince Poehnelt, who has known Johnson since childhood, said a lot of people are fearful, offended and afraid.
“I consider the guy harmless,” Poehnelt said. “Maybe he’s a little too lazy to be a full-blown neo-Nazi.”
Johnson also was asked about the swastika sticker on his motorcycle, at which point he ended the interview, telling reporters to get out of his yard.
This post was originally posted at http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Massive-Landscaped-Swastika-Has-East-Bay-Neighbors-on-Edge-510849331.html.