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Chautauqua County man sued over Nazi flags.

Byline: Bennett Loudon

A Chautauqua County woman is suing a nearby homeowner for emotional distress because he displays Nazi flags with swastikas on his property for passing motorists to see.

Plaintiff Catherine M. Kaicher lives on Hanover Road in the hamlet of Forestville, about two miles south of Todd T. Schilling, who lives on the same road in the village of Silver Creek.

In June, Schilling placed two flags with swastikas on his property facing toward Hanover Road.

"The swastika is intended to, and in fact does, strike horror and fear of violence into anyone who is forced to view it and knows of its significance, and also causes distress at the show of support for the evils of Nazism," according to the complaint filed on Feb 21 in state Supreme Court.

The lawsuit claims Schilling placed the swastika flags on his property "with the specific intent of striking hate and fear of violence to those who view it."

Kaicher drives by Schilling's property almost every day "and is forced to be exposed to the swastikas," according to the complaint.

"As a result of the defendant's action, Ms. Kaicher has suffered severe psychological distress, trauma, nervousness, and anxiety," the suit claims.

Kaicher claims she has suffered injuries, "including, but not limited to, continuing emotional trauma and distress."

The seven-page complaint includes a detailed explanation of why the swastika is considered so offensive. Kaicher's attorney, Jeffrey Wicks, of Rochester, noted in the complaint that the swastika was symbol of the Nazi Party in Germany, starting in the 1920s.

"The swastika also was the symbol under and by which the Nazis committed the worst crimes against humanity in human history, commonly known as the Holocaust," according to the complaint.

"The swastika continues to be the symbol of modern Nazi hate groups in the United States," according to the complaint.

"Such groups continue to organize and strike shock, horror and fear of violence into the hearts and minds of ordinary citizens," according to the suit.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Schilling described the complaint as "a frivolous lawsuit that won't go too far."

If Kaicher is offended by the flags she should move to another country, Schilling said.

"Go anywhere, except Canada, because Canada is too easy for the critics. Go to another country and see how you like that, except Canada," Schilling said.

And he claimed he had a First Amendment right to display the flags.

"Let's see how far screwing with the First Amendment gets you," he said.

But Wicks said there are "time, place and manner restrictions" on the First Amendment.

"You can't incite to riot. In my view, you can't have Nazi slogans openly displayed to a community because it causes people to get upset and it could stir violence," Wicks said.

Schilling claimed that the American Civil Liberties Union will defend him for free.

But Scott Forsyth, counsel to the Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the ACLU would not represent Schilling because the case does not involve a government entity.

"It's a dispute between two individuals," Forsyth said. "She may or may not prevail in court, but it's not a matter that the ACLU would get involved in, lacking government intervention."

"The First Amendment limits government behavior, and there's no evidence of government behavior in this complaint at all," he said.

Schilling has a First Amendment right that protects him from the government restricting his speech.

"But that's not what's at issue here. In this case, it's Catherine, a drive-by person who is contending that these signs cause her emotional distress," Forsyth said.

BLoudon@BridgeTowerMedia.com (585) 232-2035

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Publication:Daily Record (Rochester, NY)
Date:Feb 27, 2019
Words:614
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