Analogies to the Holocaust have become commonplace at anti-vaccine protests around the US and the world.
But protesters displaying swastikas and a yellow star especially stung on Sunday, when they deployed the symbols outside the office of a Jewish politician, Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, whose district includes the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Riverdale.
The crowd, including a Republican candidate for governor, was demonstrating against vaccine mandates in New York.
According to photos tweeted by Dinowitz, one woman held up a sign with a swastika that included the phrases “crimes against humanity” and “Nuremberg Code,” both references to Nazi Germany. Another protester wore a yellow star, an allusion to those worn by Jews under Nazi coercion.
“The display of swastikas and yellow Stars of David outside my office today is repugnant and offensive,” Dinowitz tweeted Sunday. “People are perfectly free to express their opinion on vaccines or any issue, but to openly display Nazi symbols outside the office of a Jewish legislator is despicable.”
Like other anti-vaccine protesters, members of the crowd on Sunday sought to equate the genocide of six million Jews with COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Protesters opposing public health measures have made such analogies throughout the pandemic, and antisemitism watchdogs, scholars, and Jewish groups have roundly condemned the comparisons as offensive trivializations of the Holocaust.
Rob Astorino, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, spoke at the rally, just feet away from the protester with the swastika signs. He wrote on Twitter on Sunday night that he had not seen them.
“I had no idea until I saw this photo,” wrote Astorino, a former Westchester county executive. “If I’d seen it I’d have told them to take sign down. No comparison to those atrocities & yes, I’ve always condemned anti-semitism.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democratic candidate for governor, condemned the signs.
“These blatant displays of antisemitic hate are disgusting, and I stand with Jeffrey Dinowitz in rejecting this shameful, unacceptable behavior to the Jewish community,” she tweeted.