In somewhat unsurprising news, Saturday's celebration of World Swastika Rehabilitation Day drew mixed reactions, according to a press release from event organizer the International Raelian Movement.
"A majority of the complaints came from the New York – New Jersey area, where a banner showing a swastika within the Raelian symbol was flown over Manhattan, the Jersey shore and Long Beach Island," said coordinator Thomas Kaenzig.
The religious organization, many of whose beliefs are based on the
existence of extraterrestrials, hired the swastika banner-towing plane – which also bore the address of website ProSwastika.org – to fly along the Jersey coastline from
3 p.m. to 6 p.m., reportedly offending many beachgoers.
The holiday is part of an awareness-raising attempt to reclaim the
now-infamous symbol, which Raelians say signified peace and goodwill before
it was hijacked by the Nazis.
The Long Beach Island Township Police received several alarmed calls from people who saw the plane, according to the Galloway Patch. The President of The Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island in an interview with The Daily News called the image "a scary thing."
"Should Buddhists, Hindus and Raelians have to hide this symbol because another group used it inappropriately 70 years ago and committed crimes?" Kaenzig replied in a statement. "If so, then shouldn't they also be offended by the Christian cross? ... The list of horrific crimes associated with the use of symbols is long, but only the swastika has been banned."
He said the event received the best reception in Tel Aviv, Israel. "The Jewish community on the U.S. East Coast doesn't have the same awareness as its Israeli counterpart," he said.