A man who lives across the street from a Des Moines, Iowa elementary school is defending his decision to display artwork with Confederate and Nazi imagery, the Associated Press reported Monday.
William Stark had been harshly criticized by local parents and the school district for showcasing the painted wooden pallets stacked on his property. In an interview with Fox 32 Chicago, Stark denied that the symbols were hateful.
“They don’t know their history, evidently,” Stark said, referring to people upset by his display. “That’s the only reason I can think of that they can think anything bad about it—they don’t know their history.”
More than 60% of students at Morris Elementary School, across the street from Stark’s house, are children of color, a school district spokesman said. The district added that Stark had a right to display the materials on his lawn but was banned from school property due to “numerous conflicts” between him, others who live in his home and the district.
Stark, who reportedly makes money by painting the pallets and selling them, told the Associated Press that he had painted the swastika imagery, which he said matched the artwork on Nazi air force planes, because a buyer asked him to create it and display it. He claimed that his creation was in “better taste” than merely painting the Nazi regime’s flag, which is just the swastika on a white and red background.
When asked what he would say to a Holocaust survivor who encountered his work, Stark replied: “I’m sorry for their luck, but I don’t mean nothing by it. I don’t judge you. Only person that’s supposed to judge me is the Lord, you know what I mean? I don’t judge nobody else, don’t judge me.”
Vandals graffitied truck and trailer with the words “Nazi scum” and blacked out his artwork on Wednesday.