Monday 23 September 2019

‘Mass Nazi salute’ by US high school boys probed by officials

The photo from Wisconsin drew condemnation on Twitter.

US flag
US flag

By Associated Press Reporters

US officials are investigating a photo of a group of high school boys giving what appears to be a Nazi salute.

Lori Mueller, superintendent of schools in Baraboo, Wisconsin, said she became aware of the picture on Monday after it was posted on social media.

The photo of more than 60 male students dressed in suits shows many with their right arm extended upwards on the steps of Sauk County Courthouse.

Ms Mueller did not say what occasion brought the students together, but said the photo appears to have been taken last spring and was not taken on school grounds or at a school-sponsored event.

In a letter to parents and guardians, she said: “The school district is investigating this situation and is working with parents, staff and local authorities.

“If the gesture is what it appears to be, the district will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address the issue.

“The Baraboo School District is a hate-free environment where all people, regardless of race, colour, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or ancestry are respected and celebrated.”

The photo spread quickly on Twitter with the hashtag #barabooproud, which is often used by the district to promote its activities and athletic programmes.

Baraboo Police Department said it was assisting with the district’s investigation.

The photo drew widespread condemnation, including from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland and a state senator who represents Baraboo, a town of about 12,000 residents about 115 miles north west of Milwaukee.

“This is why every single day we work hard to educate. We need to explain what is the danger of hateful ideology rising. Auschwitz with its gas chambers was at the very end of the long process of normalising and accommodating hatred,” the Auschwitz Memorial said.

Democratic senator Jon Erpenbach suggested teenagers are taking their cues from President Donald Trump.

“There’s no room in the world for anything like that at all. From what they’re seeing out of the White House, that it’s OK to be intolerant and racist. Never is. Never was. Never will be,” he said.

It is not the first time Baraboo High School students have been accused of using racially controversial symbols. In 2012, a group of students drove trucks around displaying Confederate battle flags to commemorate a friend who was killed in a car crash.

The students removed the flags at the request of school officials. Many associate the flag with slavery, segregation and white supremacy.

A week before last week’s midterm elections, residents of Baraboo and the surrounding area received white nationalist propaganda in their mail. The single-page fliers with the headline “White Lives Matter” linked to websites promoting nationalist and anti-Semitic views.

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