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'I'm disgusted': Nazi flag spotted in Twin Cities yard – but it's not illegal

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Ben Holsen was out in the backyard of his Lauderdale home Wednesday night, hanging out with his dog, when a neighbor called him over and asked him to look at a flag another yard down.

"The wind wasn't blowing," Holsen explained, "so it just looked like a red flag, and I'd never seen a flag in this guy's yard before. My neighbor told me, 'It's a Swastika.'"

Holsen, not quite believing what he was seeing, then went around to the yard and confirmed: Yep, it was a Nazi flag.

He posted a photo of it to Facebook Thursday, writing:

"So... My neighbor began flying his Nazi flag this week. The city hall administration isn't willing to do anything. My Jewish neighbors are afraid. I'm disgusted. Any ideas how to make this stop?"

Based on the photo, it appears to be the German War Ensign flag of the Third Reich, which the Historical Flags of our Ancestors site says was used by Nazi military forces from 1935-1945, the end of WWII.

Here's the thing: It's not illegal

The sight of a Nazi flag might horrify people – but it's not illegal in the U.S. like in some other countries.

And in fact, if it was made illegal, that would violate the First Amendment right to free speech, the Washington Post says. That goes for communist flags, or the flag of the Islamic State militant group as well.

"I mean it’s protected, there isn’t really anything that we can do," Lauderdale City Administrator Heather Butkowski told BringMeTheNews.

Holsen said the flag's been flying there since earlier this week, and he reached out to make City Hall aware of it, but was told the same thing – they can't do anything about it, it's protected under the First Amendment.

"And I said, well then it's going to be my First Amendment right to make sure everybody knows he's flying this flag," Holsen said, adding if nothing happens he may reach out to groups like the ACLU or Jewish Federation.

'It made me feel sad for my neighbor'

Of course, that doesn't mean it doesn't offend or upset people.

YouGov did a poll last summer that found 57 percent of Americans think the Nazi flag should be banned, while 29 percent said it should not be banned.

"It made me feel sad for my neighbor, and disgusted that somebody would do that to somebody else, for everything that flag represents," Holsen said.

Butkowski said the city's gotten a couple calls from neighbors about it, but at this point, the only thing that can be done is to go talk to the neighbor.

"I would encourage neighbors to talk to each other about any issues that they would have," she said.

But unless some criminal activity occurs, there's no legal option the city can look at, saying: "Just the presence of it doesn't violate anything."

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