Confederate flags that were hung in the windows of an Alphabet City apartment building while being dramatically backlit have now been removed, after the building's management had covered the windows with a tarp on Friday.
The flags, which drew an angry response this week and led to one person throwing rocks at the windows of the East Eighth Street building, had been hanging there for years according to neighbors. There was renewed anger and controversy surrounding the flags in the aftermath of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, during which counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist.
Neighbors also said that the man who lived in the apartment displayed Iron Cross flags for years, and only replaced them with Confederate flags once Donald Trump was elected in November 2016. In addition to the Iron Cross and Confederate flags, the apartment resident also hung Israeli flags in his windows.
"The flags have been there for years, at least ten years, and nobody’s ever said shit about them," Kevin, a resident of the nearby Jacob Riis Houses, told Gothamist. "What really pissed me off is that he had the lights behind it—so he wanted people to see them. When he put the lights behind it he was saying, fuck you, there it is."
The windows, on top floor of the building at 403 East Eighth Street, were covered with a tarp on Friday afternoon. When the tarp came down, the flags had disappeared, per a witness who tweeted a picture of the building.
— Matty (@visionsofmatty) August 19, 2017
"I noticed the flags at some point in July, many people in the neighborhood noticed them, but they came to seem much more offensive and threatening after Charlottesville," second-floor resident Jeanie May told Gothamist. May said that the building manager knocked on her door this week and told her that they were going to cover the windows with a tarp.
At least one anonymous neighbor was upset to see the tarp hung over the windows, telling Gothamist that he thought it was "silencing of speech."
"I just thought the person had complex nationalist views, and I liked it actually; once you start banning symbols, you’re banning language," the man told us.
Paul Bakija, the guitarist for the punk band Reagan Youth, lives across the street from the building, and told Gothamist that the tarp was "better than looking at a bright, lit-up Confederate flag."
Bakija told us that he could remember seeing the Iron Cross flags in the window as far back as 2005, when he first moved to his building across the street from the flags.He also said he could see and hear when the man would "open the window and yell at people downstairs. He'd yell some racially mean words, and then go back into his apartment and close the window."
Additional reporting by Jake Offenhartz and Scott Heins