As a political statement against Maryland politician E. J. Pikpkin's run for national office, Charles Richter painted a swastika on his car next to the words "Vote Pipken" and parked it legally on a public street. The same day it was parked, a sheriff's deputy ticketed the car as abandoned. Two days later, the car was towed from the same spot. When Richter refused to pay the impound lot to get his car back, it was crushed. Richter has brought suit against the deputy, and a federal judge has just ruled that the lawsuit can go forward.

Richter, explaining another swastika-adorned vehicle that was also a protest against Pipken, wrote in one forum, "Painted on my Van was... The American Indian Peace sign which happens to be the Swastika printed back wards." The decorative swastika, also used by Native Americans, is literally thousands of years old, has positive meanings, and is still used in certain Eastern cultures. It is often depicted in mirror image to the Nazi swastika, but it can be drawn with its arms going either way, right or left. The Nazi swastika is only rendered one way, with its arms to the right. We don't know if the van swastika was different than the car swastika, but the one on the car matches the Nazi swastika, and, of course, the Native American swastika, as well.

The lawsuit verdict is evidently based on the weight of free speech and political objection. According to the judge, Richter has First Amendment rights during "an act of political protest." The deputy sheriff who ticketed the car, parked legally on public property, violated those rights. It could also be taken into account, however, that E. J. Pipken is Jewish, which would open the door to considerations of hate speech. We don't know if the judge had anything to say on that issue, but for now, the case can proceed.

[Source: Maryland Daily Record]