A Massachusetts homeowner who hung a Nazi flag and then, when confronted, a Confederate flag, from a flagpole in his front yard, says he’s feeling “threatened” by the public backlash he’s receiving, Yahoo Lifestyle reports.
Paul Gibeault, 57, is the homeowner in question. On Monday, Southbridge neighbor Paul Harvard, 49, published photos of Gibeault’s display on a Facebook post — a post which has since been deleted — as well as Gibeault’s name, address and phone number.
The sequence of events of this story remains unclear, but it appears that Gibeault first hung a Nazi flag, which upset Harvard. “This guy’s neighbor is Jewish — you’d think that as a veteran, he would understand the significance of hate symbols,” says Harvard.
When Gibeault was confronted about the display — it’s not clear how or by whom — he took it down and replaced it with a new flag: a Confederate flag with the snake from the Gadsden flag and the words “Don’t Tread On Me.”
Gibeault, for his part, says that his displays aren’t intended to promote hate. Rather, he says, they’ve been taken out of context. He says they’re intended as a warning sign to America about the path the country is on.
“I’m not supporting Hitler. But this country will become like Nazi Germany if we keep traveling down this road we’re on…We’re becoming so saturated with immigrants that this country is in danger of collapsing and China will take over.” he said.
A Southbridge man has removed a Nazi flag from his lawn after complaints from neighbors.— Kate Merrill (@KateMerrill) June 14, 2019
Town officials say there was nothing they could do... It's a matter of free speech.
He replaced the flag with a USA flag and a confederate flag. #WBZ pic.twitter.com/5wVznBlM9U
Now that the story has gone nationwide, Gibeault is getting quite a bit of attention, and not the kind that he wants. He says he feels “threatened” by the backlash he’s been getting. And in fact, police are patrolling the Southbridge neighborhood where this took place, over concerns about possible violence.
As for the display, Boston’s WBZ-TV says that there’s nothing police can do about it because it’s protected free speech, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Harvard, for his part, is facing something of a backlash of his own, for publishing Gibeault’s name and address. Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle, he didn’t apologize, but he did make it clear that he doesn’t want any violence to come out of this.
“I have asked that people not harass him or get violent. He has a right to fly the flag and I have a right to call him out,” he said.
Meanwhile, according to a Facebook page purportedly belonging to Gibeault, he has plans for more flags in the future. “My next flag will be a salute to the gays,” he says.