Lawsuit Acknowledges The Power Of The Swastika And Alleges That It Strikes Horror And Fear
It Also Claims That 6 Million Jews Died In The Holocaust
A Chautauqua County woman claims in a lawsuit that she is suffering emotional distress because she regularly drives by the home of a neighbor who has placed two swastika flags on his property.
The lawsuit from Catherine Kaicher targets Todd Schilling, who hung the swastikas on his property during a dispute with neighbors last summer in the Silver Creek village.
Schilling placed the Nazi symbol on his property "with the specific intent of striking hate and fear of violence to those who view it," the lawsuit alleges.
"Ms. Kaicher actually is shocked, disturbed and distressed on a daily basis by the affront to civility of the display of the Swastika on the Schilling property," alleges the lawsuit.
Rochester attorney Jeffrey Wicks, who represents Kaicher and spoke on her behalf, said the ugly power of the swastika can't be ignored, especially after the 2017 march by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville that led to a homicide and the mass shooting of 11 attendees at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh in October.
"In modern-day America it's unbelievable that we are still reminded of the horrors of the Holocaust, vis-a-vis the symbol of the Holocaust itself, the swastika," he said.
In a telephone interview Saturday, Schilling said he hung the flags as a response to neighbors with whom he has been engaged in property-related disputes.
"I'm not condoning (the Holocaust)," he said. "I'm not saying it's good."
He maintained that Kaicher was motivated by others with whom he has had the ongoing confrontations.
"This is a frivolous lawsuit," he said. "I'm going to sue her for emotional distress."
His Nazi flags are not inciting anyone to riot or to commit violence, so they are a protected form of free speech, Schilling said.
Wicks said the lawsuit is not the offspring of any neighborhood dispute, but instead a necessary response to a symbol representing the genocide of millions. Schilling cannot know whether the public display of the symbols could trigger someone to engage in violence, he said.
"Things are getting worse, not better, as we get farther away from the Holocaust," Wicks said.
The lawsuit details the Nazi Party's use of the swastika, and recent anti-Semitic violence. During the Holocaust almost 17 million people, including six million Jews, were "systematically tortured and murdered in death camps in Poland and Germany," the lawsuit states.
Citing the October homicides of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the lawsuit notes that the suspect, Robert Bowers, "left a long record of neo-Nazi-inspired anti-Semitic ranting such as 'Jews are the children of Satan' " on a Nazi-friendly social media site "on which usernames often contain Swastikas."
The swastika "does strike horror and fear of violence into anyone who is forced to view it and knows of its significance, and also causes distress at the show of support for the evils of Nazism," the lawsuit states.
Schilling contends that his flags, regardless of their history, are "protected under the First Amendment." Wicks differed, noting that the constitutional protection is a limitation on what the government can do to impede speech.
"This isn't the government," Wicks said. "This isn't the government restricting his rights. These are two private properties."
The lawsuit has been filed in state Supreme Court in Chautauqua County.