By Betty Yu


EL SOBRANTE (KPIX 5) — A community in Contra Costa County is on edge after a man displayed a giant cement swastika on his front yard.

The large swastika displayed clearly on Johnson’s front yard (CBS)

The homeowner, Steve Johnson of El Sobrante, said the constructed sign isn’t a swastika, but a Tibetan symbol. Neighbors aren’t buying it–they said Johnson has other displays of swastikas around his home and on his motorcycle.

“You can call it what you want, as far as I’m concerned,” Johnson said when asked what the symbol was. “It’s a Tibetan sign that was invented way before swastikas was invented.”

“It represents me not having to pull weeds out of that part of my yard.”

Vince Poehnelt has lived on the same block since 1967. As a man of German descent, he said Johnson’s display offended him greatly.

“I’m very ashamed of it,” Poehnelt said.

Neighbor Maria Gutierrez was concerned about what the symbol could mean for children and families in the area. “Now, it’s not safe,” she said.

Others are worried about their property values dropping as a result of the display.

“I tell them, ‘Hey, I’ve been helping you out.’ Tell them I love them,” Johnson said when asked about what he’d say to the neighbors who were offended. He went on to ask, likely sarcastically, “What is a swastika?”

“I don’t think he’s a hardcore Neo-Nazi. He may be racist,” Poehnelt said.

“I own this house and I’ll put what the hell I want on my front yard and it’s none of you guys’ business, so get the hell off my property!” Johnson told members of the media.

When asked if he was Tibetan, Johnson said, “I could be.”

Comments (79)
  1. Emilio Aymat says:

    I lived through Spanish fascism as a boy and have confronted fascists face 2 face and I can authoritatively state that this guy is not a fascist or racist.. He’s just a regular biker and the community-based morality against him, is one rooted in yuppie property greedworship. Also a swastika is as much a symbol of oppression as is the star of David or Christian cross……history PROVES that to to be to be a fact, yet am sure those hypocrite libs would never raise their voices against Cabalistic and WASP domination and oppression

    1. Malcolm Johnson says:

      you have it backwards….the star of David and Christian cross are symbols of the MOST oppressed people on earth. The guy is a white supremacist. Period.

      1. sammie515 says:

        This is America, if he wants to be a white supremacist, that’s his right, he can be a nazi if he wants. We have the right to believe in anything we want, and it is his property. His neighbors may not like it, but, we all have neighbors who do things to THEIR property that we don’t like.
        If he was my neighbor, I’d just ignore it, it’s not like it’s a big flag flying in everyone’s face, obviously the guy doesn’t care what the neighbors think and he’s not doing anything illegal, and maybe he’s just a little crazy. Don’t mess with crazy people.

      2. James Reagan says:

        Yeah any white man that does not get down and kiss your feet is a white supremacist. You are the racist cause you are the one to bring up race!

    2. Dave Hardesty says:

      Emilio
      I recall, when I was stationed in Japan and lived there for four years, all of the small swastikas displayed on the roof tops of homes and other buildings in Japan.

      In discussing this with an elderly WWII American who participated on the occupation of Japan immediately after their surrender, he confessed that many American soldiers destroyed buildings that displayed the swastika because they associated it with NAZIs and NAZI Germany when it was a religious symbol of ‘good fortune and good will’.

      The swastika was a religious symbol long before NAZI Germany used it as their symbol.

      People who view it as a symbol of hate are really no better than people who hate other people for the color of their skin.

      1. Samuel Green says:

        David, As a retired soldier myself, this guys use of the swastika and Waffen SS emblems clearly are not symbols of peace. If you believe his use of these symbols is one of peace, you need a reality check.

  2. Jack Inmanz says:

    “history PROVES that to to be to be a fact” Huh?

    1. Emilio Aymat says:

      …..yes it does!. U must be selectively “forgetting” how the Israelis bomb children’s hospitals, gentrify neighborhoods or how the catholics support and hide pedophiles..All religious morality is is oppressive and fascism was a Christian movement

      1. Mat Helm says:

        You forget how Hamas fired rockets from the roof of, and stored munitions in that “Children’s Hospital”. And how Hamas hield women and children at gun point to keep them from leaving said “Children’s Hospital”. Not to mention that the tiny bomb Israel hit the roof of it with, was only strong enough to destroy that roof. Whereas normally in a non hostage strike, they level the building…

  3. If you visit the Indian Carlisle Museum in Carlisle,, Pennsylvania, you will see multiple Native American totems that resemble the swastika. In fact, Hitler’s swastika was derived from photos of these Indian Totems supplied to him by Progenitor, Joseph Kennedy.

    1. Emilio Aymat says:

      Ur wrong. The sideways and right-facing nazi swastika is modeled after the Viking symbol of tye Hammers of Thor that protect Valhalla.

  4. Bill Snyder says:

    He identifies as a Tibetan the same as Ole Liz warren identifies as an indian.

    1. Emilio Aymat says:

      He’s just a tweeker biker and people that make a big fuss about this are hypocritical morons.

  5. Philip Yenovkian says:

    For God’s sake can’t anyone just leave this guy alone? It’s a free speech issue. Like it or not, it’s just a swastika, or Tibetan symbol, or whatever. It’s not like he went out and murdered people.

  6. Why is this the lead story for you news??? Why do you care what a man does on his own property???

    1. They’re obviously out of Trump stories at the moment but I suspect they’ll tag this fellow as a Trump supporter soon enough and then blame Trump for the guy putting it on his property.

      My question is: how long has it actually been there and did KPIX just “discover” it?

  7. Victoria Gaines Conners says:

    If the homeowner was a Tibetan monk or had Asian features not a peep would be uttered. He has the same symbol in his railings and not a word. Sloppy reporting as well as a simple search reveals that this sign is used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions. But this is they way the media operates. Shock for cash. No wonder they are hated.

    This is about harassing a white guy, pure and simple. When people learn new things they should educate and teach, not say stuff like “I am ashamed”. What they should say is ” I am ignorant”.

    1. Dave Hardesty says:

      And to think, the liberal mantra is for everyone to have compassion and tolerant for everyone else. Yet they attack one man for displaying a symbol that has so many different meanings all over the world, while they harass him and accuse him of being a racist, laciest, NAZI , white Supremacist, card carrying member of the KKK simply because he rides a motorcycle.

      Talk about false compassion. These Californian Contra Costa SF Bay liberals really show their mental stability to the rest of the world now don’t they? Really enlightened. Really progressive. Really compassionate, Really Tolerant of other cultures. Really ignorant. Really stupid. And really really hypocrites.

  8. Who cares what this individual puts in his front yard, he’s not harming anyone except the sensibilities of the Snowflakes and Cupcakes . Maybe its a Tibetan religious symbol or not. This is a news story looking for a reason, all the publicity shows how dumb media is, they swallowed it hook line and sinker.

  9. Ray Sagastiano says:

    I love seeing the beanies get triggered.

    1. Reed Thompson says:

      Kvetching intensifies…

  10. Pancho Perico says:

    Well, Mr. Johnson is right. The swastika is a very old symbol of peace and good luck in Tibet, Nepal, India, China and Japan. Here in the American continent, the Hopi, the Navajos, the Tinglit, the Aztec, the Maya, the Inca and the Kuna of Panama venerated the swastika as a symbol. Even the Pomo Indians who lived in the SF Bay Area used the swastika as a symbol.

    The swastika appears as an early Christian symbol in the Roman catacombs and even in old Jewish synagogues in Cafarnaum

    See the book “The Swastika and the Nazis” about the true origins of the swastika and how Hitler and the Nazis misappropriated it.

  11. Philip Popenik says:

    this is RIDICULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Abe Arnold says:

    THE BROKEN CROSS (swastika) has been a positive symbol of peace, plenty, prosperity for about 12,000 years. It was used by Hitler as his Socialist Workers Party symbol. Allowing the good symbol to continue as a bad symbol, simply because Hitler used it, means he is still winning. Hitler was a Socialist who hatted Capitalism. That means he was left-wing. Same as todays SocialistNazi democRATS. WHO owns the PC (political correctness) movement in the USA? democRATS or Republicans? Where & when did PC originate? Germany. 1923. Heil Hitler, you RATS.

  13. Gene Tillock says:

    Interesting side note the great red Dragon can be seen either as a lucky symbol all over China today or as cultic even demonic Or an idol falsely worshipped as in revelation 12 written 2000 years ago in the bible talking about the end of days. Then there’s the issue of statue of Thomas Jefferson- some see a great statesmen others a rascist pig and tear it down no matter what we say . Then there s the image of another famous speech writer martin lex luther king. Some see an equally great statesmen others see a hypocrite reverend racist and big pig. What do you see. All your way or mine or them over there. then there’s trump then again that shillary oh my. What do you think of them 2. Then it’s back to the Jews again and the germuns as hermuns all munsters (to them)and now the poor palestionions who used to just throw rocks and upgraded to rockets. Arabs too. What do you think of all them. Interesting world we live in

  14. Infanticidal DemoKKKrats will do almost anything for attention.

  15. Daphne Van Zant says:

    The origanal use for swatiska meant universal. Some how ancient man new we lived in a spiral galexy and copied the symbole. It was not until NAZI germany that this symbol became a symbol of hate. In this case the man is just using it as a pattern and noting more. It also is not an uncommon pattern, in buidlings as even military barracks on San Diego Corinodo building have the same patttern, as only seen from the air. just like with this mans yard. The nieghberos didn’t even know untill someone from the news informed the nieghbors. Such fake news.

  16. Gene Easley says:

    My freedom of speech does not end when you are offended. I don’t agree with this man displaying the swastika in his front yard but he has the right to do it. Censorship is the pathway to tyranny.

  17. If the property owner was from India or Nepal would the neighbors be complaining? Around Gandhi’s grave are swastikas. It is a thousand year old image.

    If it pointed to the left then it would be a “manji,” a Japanese sign of harmony, a symbol whose meaning evokes for the Japanese exactly the opposite of what a swastika connotes to those of us in the West.

    To some, the Star of David is offensive. I’m sorry, like it or not, this man has every right to display the symbol.

  18. Gerald Brennan says:

    He’s right about the swastika. But it’s not just Tibet, it’s found in every ancient culture. It represents, among other things, the positive and negative forces spinning in action. Of course, he might also be a neo-Nazi. But it’s his property. Don’t look if you don’t like it. It’s still America.

  19. Personally Don’t care for it all but he is free to display on his property.. His right..Get over it snowflakes. BTW he wants attention and is getting it..

  20. Carol Mathews says:

    The swastika is an ancient Indo-European religious symbol that generally takes the form of an equilateral cross, with its four arms bent at 90 degrees in either right-facing form or its mirrored left-facing form. The Swastika is an ancient Indo-European religious symbol originating from the Ukraine, that generally takes the form of an equilateral cross with four legs each bent at 90 degrees. It is considered to be a sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and dates back at least 11,000 years.

  21. Jim Hyland says:

    Why is the world so divided and in such extreme moral decline? God’s prolonged spiritual judgment has begun on mankind. To learn more, check E Bible Fellowship.

  22. Big Mama says:

    Oh yes ..the Nazi regime is alive and well have already starting to kill people …oh wait thats the Mexican drug cartels ,ms13 and all “of color” gangs…hmmm

  23. Horace C. Lank says:

    Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right. Typical garbage propaganda from a garbage fake news source. Lap it up, sheeples, lap it up…

  24. Joey Smith says:

    Anyone ever take a vacation to Bali? They are Hindus on that island, and put their swastikas all over the place. It is almost shocking when you first see it. Then when you inquire a bit you find out it is a symbol of good fortune. Not making this up either.

  25. Matt Beer says:

    Gotta at least give the man some credit on his concrete form work. Nice craftsmanship…..

  26. Daniel Schwartz says:

    Actually, it IS a “swastika” even if it IS meant as a Tibetan (or Indian) symbol of good luck. The word “swastika” comes from Sanskrit and means something like “bringing good fortune”. The Nazis actually called their symbol a “hakenkreuz” (in German).

  27. Forest Woodstock says:

    I’ve got a neighbor that insists on leaving a Hillary Clinton sign up in his yard 3 years later.

    His mental state worries me as well as the delusion bunch on CNN.

  28. Eileen Finnin Hargrove says:

    The name swastika comes from Sanskrit (Devanagari: स्वस्तिक) meaning ‘conducive to well being’ or ‘auspicious’.[7][8] In Hinduism, the symbol with arms pointing clockwise (卐) is called swastika, symbolizing surya (‘sun’), prosperity and good luck, while the counterclockwise symbol (卍) is called sauvastika, symbolizing night or tantric aspects of Kali.[8] In Jainism, a swastika is the symbol for Suparshvanatha—the seventh of 24 Tirthankaras (spiritual teachers and saviours), while in Buddhism it symbolizes the auspicious footprints of the Buddha.[8][9][10] In several major Indo-European religions, the swastika symbolizes lightning bolts, representing the thunder god and the king of the gods, such as Indra in Vedic Hinduism, Zeus in the ancient Greek religion, Jupiter in the ancient Roman religion, and Thor in the ancient Germanic religion.[1 1]

  29. Carlos Stevens says:

    No, it is not the Tibetan symbol. The symbol this guy is displaying is backward and at the wrong angle for it to be the Tibetan symbol. You’re not foolin’ anyone dude.

  30. Sam Spade says:

    He be trollin’ y’all.

  31. Doug Day says:

    If the pinwheel spins counter-clockwise, Nazi. If not, Asian or Plains Indian.

  32. Todd Smith says:

    Most commenting here have little knowledge about the Swastika!
    The Germans chose that from the Asian symbol that several countries use even today.
    In India you can see the ”swastika” on cups, etc as it means good luck. The Germans liked the symbol they saw in their dearch of the occult prior to the war.

    Now seque to the raised fist. It was first used by the Romans.
    The US used it for 50 years from 1892 for the Pledge of Allegiance at school and sport stadiums. It was called the Bellamy Salute.

    Too many people think they are correct with their knowledge of history but are clueless.

  33. Doommer Bucket says:

    Go to Vietnam ……This symbol is every where and not a Nazi in sight…..LOL

  34. Tim Bennett says:

    The woman that said of her children “now, Its not safe.” says a lot. I am curious when they are not safe. Because someone did some landscaping they don’t approve of? how is your safety affected. Being offended and not being safe in your neighborhood are two very different things. Its so easy to see the BS.

  35. pvl sgl says:

    The SAME sign is also used by Chinese Falun Dafa, who paraded recently in the USA and whom Americans consider as “persecuted religious minority” in China! Go figure 🙁

  36. Samuel Green says:

    You can clearly see the Waffen SS emblem on the right and left sides of this racist bikers helmet. Those aren’t Tibetan.

    Glad this moron isn’t my neighbor.

  37. He should at least put the dots in it like this: ࿗
    That’s a variation that at least makes it not the Nazi symbol too, I mean if he really wanted to convey that it is a Tibetian symbol and not a nod to the Nazis. 🙄

  38. Jim M. Ryles says:

    The smell of urine soaked pants from liberals and progressives in San Franfreakco must be overwhelming.

  39. Aron Deamer says:

    Lets be clear, this is not a swastika, this *is* the german Hakenkreuz. It’s tilted at a 90 degree angle something that was exclusive to the NSDAP. Occasionally yes, the swastika was used by the SS, and the pre-hitler takeover NSDAP, in it’s original orientation (just flipped clockwise). But the Hakenkreuz is tilted 90 degrees. This is blatently a Nazi symbol.

  40. correction: I mean 45 degrees, 90 degrees is the original orientation of the religious swastika. the german hakenkreuz is at 45 degrees like this guy has in his yard.