It had been there for years, carved from Las Vegas courthouse wood: a swastika. A symbol of hatred and violence – an unwelcome greeting for both locals and visitors.
It is gone now. Removed not from city squads, but by a local artist who filled in and painted over the hateful symbol earlier this week.
Alex Allington is a local carpenter who made used tables at the Plaza Hotel. He also worked as an animal control officer for the city, and said it was about three years ago, during a visit to the courthouse while on duty, that someone first brought the swastika to his attention.
It has been bothering him for years, and so, on Monday, while on his way to a hardware store to pick up some supplies for other projects he was working on, Allington walked past the courthouse sign. Seeing that the swastika was still there, he decided to do something about it.
He removed a splinter of paint from the sign and took it with him to the hardware store where employees were able to match the color. She bought a quart of paint and some wood putty, then got to work, first filling the gouges in the wood with putty, and then painting over them to remove any signs that the hateful symbol had ever been there.
“The whole thing took maybe 10 minutes. Ten dollars, 10 minutes, “Allington said with a laugh.” That’s all it took. “
Allington didn’t stop there, though. After driving near the sign again later in the day, he was dissatisfied with the appearance of the new paint versus the weathered sign.
“I thought: it’s just new, it will fade away. But then I thought: I can’t leave him like this, ”she said. “So I went back and put a cool coat on everything.”
Repainting the entire sign took about 30 minutes.
“The sign looks much better now. I’m glad I did, “Allington said.
The swastika is an ancient symbol that has been used in a positive way by many cultures, including some Native American tribes. However, Adolf Hitler adopted the swastika as the main symbol of the Nazi party in 1920. Since 1945, the swastika has been the most infamous symbol of hatred used by white anti-Semitic and supremacist groups.
It is not known who placed the symbol on the courthouse sign so many years ago, as well as the reasons for doing so. Allington’s hope is that it wasn’t done out of hate, and he theorizes that a child may have done it without fully understanding its meaning.
“I wonder if he sees it and thinks’ Hey, I’m proud of it, ‘or if he says’ Oh, shit. What was I thinking? ‘”He said.
Allington said he doesn’t think the swastika indicates the presence of a group of white supremacists in Las Vegas, but said there are other problems the city faces.
“There is a lot of xenophobia in this city, and that’s a problem,” he said. “There is a general feeling that anyone with a non-Latin name is a non-local trying to change the culture. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course… a lot of non-Latin named people were born and raised Las Vegans with a long family history here, like me.
Mayor Louie Trujillo said he had never seen the swastika and that no one had ever informed him.
“There is absolutely no place for hatred in this city. It’s deeply disturbing, ”she said. “If it had been brought to my attention, I would have acted immediately.”
Trujillo said citizens can report things like this, along with a number of other issues, via the city’s smartphone app or by calling the city manager or the mayor’s office.
Trujillo discouraged others from taking similar actions and instead urged people to follow the appropriate channels. He also said that priority will be given to removing any symbols of hatred or discrimination.
Allington remains proud of his work and is glad he took action.
“It was driving me crazy, and it’s a little little thing that I could actually do something about, so I did it,” he said. “Repairing the sign was easy. If only it were so easy to erase racism and prejudices of all kinds ”.