The appearance of a Nazi flag at the Sanders campaign event Thursday night was widely denounced on social media, sparked outcry and prompted calls for security.
“We can argue about which candidate should get the Dem nomination, but antisemitic acts have no place in this world. This is absolutely abhorrent,” Steven Slugocki, the chairman of the Maricopa County Democratic Party in Arizona, wrote on Twitter.
The individual who had hung a flag with a swastika on it was immediately booed by the crowd. Members of the audience ripped the flag from the individual’s hand, and the individual was quickly removed by security.
In the moment, in response to the boos, Sanders told the large crowd of his supporters that “whoever it was” that caused the disruption was “a little outnumbered tonight.”
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“And more importantly, they’re going to be outnumbered in November,” he added.
Sanders communications director Mike Casca told CNN that the Vermont senator did not see the flag.
“He didn’t see it, but he was told about it afterward and was disturbed,” Casca told CNN.
“Nazi flags are symbols of pure hate and have no place anywhere in America, much less in a rally for a Jewish presidential candidate. We are grateful that those responsible were removed immediately,” the American Jewish Committee tweeted Friday.
A Sanders supporter suggested on Twitter that the senator and fellow presidential candidate Joe Biden, who recently had protesters jump onstage at his rally, should have US Secret Service protection going forward.
Later in the night, the crowd wrestled away “Trump” banners from protesters, who were also escorted out of the rally, according to footage from CNN affiliate KNXV.
If elected, Sanders would be America’s first Jewish president. Sanders’ extended family from Poland was killed in the Holocaust during World War II.
During a CNN town hall in February, Sanders opened up about his Jewish heritage, saying it “impacts me very profoundly” and has greatly shaped his world view.
“I think at a very early age, even before my political thoughts were developed, I was aware of the horrible things that human beings can do to other people in the name of racism, of white nationalism or, in this case, Nazism,” Sanders said. “The pain that my family, my father’s family suffered in Poland is something that has impacted my life.”
Assault, harassment and vandalism against Jews remain at near-historic levels, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
The ADL’s most recent audit in 2018 of anti-Semitic incidents showed it was the third-highest year on record since the ADL started tracking in 1979.
The report found a total of 1,879 acts against Jews and Jewish institutions across the country, including the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, believed to be the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the US.