Airdrie city Coun. Allan Hunter is in the centre of controversy for an image he posted on Twitter Sept. 5.
The symbol Hunter posted is associated with Strasserism, a more radical form of Nazism, named for the two brothers who founded it, Gregor and Otto Strasser. Strasserism advocates anti-Semitism and takes an anti-capitalist stance. Strands of Strasserism remain active within today’s Neo-Nazi movement.
Airdrie resident Kayla Jessen was on Twitter Sept. 5 and saw Hunter’s tweet.
“I saw that image and it immediately made me (think), ‘that’s not a benign image’ because it’s red, white and black,” she said. “As soon as I see red, white and black, I think the worst.”
Jessen said she knew the image likely had something to do with the Second World War and Nazism, and when she Googled, ‘hammer, sword, flag,’ the image came up along with a definition of Strasserism.
Jessen said she replied to Hunter’s tweet and asked him to explain why he posted it.
“I automatically assumed that he didn’t know what it was and that he’d just seen it and seen the quote and thought that it was a good quote and sent it out,” she said. “So I tweeted at him…because I wanted clarification. I included what (the image) was.”
Hunter tweeted the image – which includes a crossed hammer and sword in red on a black background with the words, “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty” – without any comment or context.
Jessen said she assumed Hunter would respond immediately, confirming he didn’t know the origin of the image and would apologize and delete it. But she has yet to receive a response from Hunter.
“Essentially, he went to a radio station for his response. It took 24 hours before that came out – by that time, there were a lot of people questioning (the image and Hunter’s intentions),” she said. “They were tweeting at him and sending Facebook messages and tagging him in things and there was nothing. (He) was silent. It was really shocking. It was really disappointing.”
Hunter said he didn’t believe anything he could say would make a difference to how he was being portrayed.
“Haters are haters and I’m not going to change their opinion of me,” he said. “The reason I originally put that up there was to say, ‘quit sending me this garbage.’ Then people were like, ‘oh, you didn’t understand it.’ I understand when someone sends you a picture of a sword and a hammer that typically doesn’t mean, please give to the poor. I get it. Calling me a racist is a big lie.”
Hunter said the reason for the delay in responding to the multitude of questions and comments he was receiving on the tweet was due to “a whole bunch of stuff” going on in his life at the time.
Hunter said he admits he is not very social media savvy, however, Jessen said this excuse doesn’t sit well with her as she believes a councillor representing the city should not be posting such images or anything offensive on social media, but if it happens, they should accept accountability.
“What disappoints me now is not so much the mistake he made but his response to the mistake. Because errors happen and you admit it and you apologize and you move forward. You don’t sit there and justify why you made the error,” she said.
Jessen is not the only Airdrie resident who questioned Hunter’s posting of the image. Leon Cygman said he initially saw a post of Jessen’s Twitter question for Hunter on the Airdrie elections Facebook page. Once the radio station posted Hunter’s explanation and apology Sept. 7, Cygman said he was “happy with his apology but his explanation was a little thin and contradictory.”
Hunter’s explanation for why he posted the image as a means of deterring others from sending him similar offensive images, while at the same time not knowing the symbol was offensive, is a contradiction Cygman said he finds confusing.
“To tell you the truth, I have no idea what the symbol meant and I believe he did not know either. My quandary is that if it was sent to him by people harassing him, shouldn’t he have thought it was something inappropriate?” Cygman said.
Hunter said he believed the controversy would impact his campaign to be re-elected.
“I’d be a fool not to,” he said.