The sight of a Nazi flag coming from an Uptown apartment window stirred shock and outrage early Thursday in south Minneapolis.
Amy Gonyea, general manager of Sela Investments, first became aware of the Nazi flag at the company’s 2715 Dupont S. apartment complex earlier this month. She says she sent a maintenance worker to investigate, but given the placement of the flag—on a wall 15 feet behind the window, only visible when illuminated at night—the worker turned up nothing.
Then, this morning, concerned emails and calls started pouring in to Sela’s office after the following tweet gained traction locally.
Gonyea confronted the two flag-hoisting tenants late this afternoon.
“They agreed to move the flag out of their window, but said, ‘It’s our God-given right!’” she says. “I said, ‘Sir, the entire neighborhood is up-in-arms.'”
An hour later, Gonyea issued an eviction complaint, according paperwork filed with Hennepin County.
“Plaintiff seeks to have Defendant evicted for hanging, displaying and promoting offensive, violent, and dangerous materials in the apartment and on and through the
windows of the apartment,” the complaint reads. “Defendant is displaying and promoting nazi symbols and its flag to cause fear, intimidation, and reprisal against other residents and the Plaintiff.”
Restoring a sense of safety to the neighborhood was paramount, Gonyea says, alluding to the potential for bricks or even bombs being lobbed at the window. Displaying Nazi flags can easily become a First Amendment issue, constitutional law professor Greg Magarian tells Washington University. Unlike in Europe and Canada where hate speech is more vigorously restricted, removal of such flags in the U.S. must meet an “incitement” threshold that’s tricky to prove, Magarian says.
“I’m going to try to mutually terminate the lease, and give them a 30-day opportunity to move. Just get ‘em out of there,” Gonyea says. “We will not allow racism at any of our properties.”
Sela owns and operates about 60 Twin Cities properties, many of them in the Uptown area. Back in 2017, following intense social media condemnation, the nearby Uptown Diner fired two workers who went viral wearing Nazi garb.