BY JOHN ANDERSON
The issue of allowing the town highway superintendent in the Town of Allen to drive his personal truck for town business with a swastika symbol on it, bearing sarcastic words against the government for vaccinations, caused a packed meeting with police presence Tuesday night.
Over 30 people, including the town board, packed into the small town hall room, which is inside the building that houses the town highway equipment and vehicles.
Allen Town Highway Superintendent Jason Norton was forced to use his own personal vehicle for town business as two town vehicles are out of service. The board agreed to allow the vehicle to be part of official town use and Norton is paid mileage and his salary while using his personal vehicle.
There is a swastika on the back window of the truck. When you get closer, there is black writing inside the red symbol saying, “Get Vax Or Else.” It appears to be a play on words as the government was forcing people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and in some cases, you could lose your job.
During the meeting Tuesday, which was overseen by an Allegany County Sheriff Deputy, Norton defended the swastika, telling the audience it was originally a sign of well-being. He did not mention the sticker was poking fun at the government for acting like a Communist government when it came to the pandemic.
A resident of the town turned to Norton and said, “Can I talk to you? When you ran for road (superintendent), no way in hell I knew you had a swastika on the back of your truck.”
Norton answered, “I went door-to-door ..” and the community member cut him off and said, “I know you did, we didn’t look at your truck, we looked at you. I liked you, you did a good job, but the swastika, that’s bad … that’s bad. My mother and brother died in World War II.”
Norton interrupted, “What is the original meaning of the swastika?” The community member said “what do you think it is, Nazi Germany.” Norton said “it means well-being” and then louder he said “well-being.” He did not bring up the vaccination.
Allen Town Supervisor Roy D. Bielewicz said, “About two weeks ago, it came to my attention our town highway superintendent pickup truck bears the emblem of a Nazi swastika on his pickup truck window. I don’t believe any town board member was aware of this when they approved the use of the vehicle for town business.
“I mentioned this to Mr. Norton and the vile nature of such symbols. As the pickup drives down the roads of the town of Allen, goes to other towns to buy parts on Town of Allen business, it bears the most iconic symbol of hate, bigotry and anti-semitism known to modern man,” Bielewicz continued. “People don’t have time to read what it says on the sign of hatred, it now represents the Town of Allen.”
Bielewicz continued, “I can not believe the Town of Allen can have any association with the symbol that is responsible for the loss and slaughter of 11 million Jews and 418,000 American soldiers. The federal government prohibits any type of display on government vehicles used in the United States, it’s called the Hatch Act.”
There were four members of the audience who spoke up in favor of Norton being allowed to have the sticker on his private vehicle, even if it is used for town business. When Bielewicz was challenged on the origin of the swastika, he read several positive things about the origins, but said none of that matters as it is a state and federal symbol of hate. He said the law is specific on the matter.
“This has bothered me since I saw it. Frankly, I don’t know why anyone would put this symbol on their vehicle,” Bielewicz said. “No elected official should have this on their vehicle. As of this moment, I will not sign any mileage checks of anyone who has a vehicle with a sign for bigotry,hatred, anti-seminism or hate … as town supervisor every time I sign a check for mileage, I feel like I am spitting on the grave of those who have died for our country and I’m spitting on the face of those who are still alive.”
The swastika symbol originally meant good fortune or well-being, dating back almost 7,000 years ago. However, for the past 102 years, it has been the symbol of hate, and it is now recognized as such by New York state.
According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, “The work of European linguists and other scholars was taken up by racist groups, for whom the swastika was a symbol of “Aryan identity” and German nationalist pride. This conjecture of Aryan cultural descent of the German people is likely one of the main reasons why the Nazi Party formally adopted the swastika or Hakenkreuz (Ger., hooked cross) as its symbol in 1920.”The Nazi Party was not the only party to use the swastika in Germany. After World War I, a number of far-right nationalist movements adopted the swastika. As a symbol, it became associated with the idea of a racially “pure” state. By the time the Nazis gained control of Germany, the connotations of the swastika had forever changed.
In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote, “I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle. After long trials I also found a definite proportion between the size of the flag and the size of the white disk, as well as the shape and thickness of the swastika.”
One community member asked Bielewicz, “You tried to start trouble by turning this into the Wellsville Sun. Did you contact the Wellsville Sun to have an article written?” Bielewicz said “I personally did not contact the Wellsville Sun.”
Bielewicz said Norton’s truck would be towed if he showed up to work with the truck on Wednesday. The town went on to hold a budget hearing and then back to town business with the highway department and the lack of vehicles.
The Town of Allen will be receiving a new truck soon, intended for Norton. Another truck is almost done being repaired. The board (Bielewicz, Judith Allen, Edgar Allen, Dale Gelser and Todd Krzeminski) voted 5-0 to rent a truck for Norton to use for work. Norton agreed he would not use his truck and he would cover up the swastika while it was on town property.
Bielewicz said he was going to try to get the truck that is being fixed back to Allen this week. The board members also approved buying tires and other items to fix the current fleet.
On Wednesday, town officials said Norton did not show up for work. One of his supporters said they did not think the treatment was fair and they would not be surprised if he started a new job soon.
After Norton left and after the sheriff deputy was told he could leave (most of the crowd was gone before the meeting adjourned), Bielewicz asked Allen Town Clerk Jame VanDewalker if Norton turned in a resignation letter before he left.
VanDewalker said, “He wanted to this week but I’ve been trying to talk him out of quitting.”