The large, red swastika spray-painted onto a Minneapolis garage door in November 2016 was not even drawn correctly.
Half of its loopy, lurid arms bent right; the others, nearly touching, bent left, lacking the ironclad symmetry of the iconic Nazi symbol. Yet it appeared on a garage door on the city's north side just days after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. A photo of it was posted on social media. That's how Carin Mrotz first became aware of it.
"I saw it on Facebook early in the morning," recalls Mrotz, a longtime north Minneapolis resident who works for Jewish Community Action, a local justice advocacy group. She was headed to a mall in the suburbs to walk a picket line in solidarity with striking retail janitorial workers, and couldn't do anything about it right away. But as she headed back to Minneapolis, she couldn't stop thinking about the "giant swastika" and the threatening message it sent.
So she jumped into action. Mrotz bought cleaning supplies from a local shop and headed to the defaced garage with an activist friend, Wintana Melekin, who had called to offer her help. Melekin remembers Mrotz fearlessly striding up to the front door of the house that went with the garage, looking for someone to talk to about the swastika. No one answered her knock; the house was vacant. Still, without waiting for the Minneapolis police to show up, Mrotz and Melekin scrubbed the garage clean.
First, they took pictures, documenting the before and after scene. "Last night someone spray-painted a Swastika on a home in north Minneapolis," Melekin wrote. She posted the photos on Twitter, declaring that she and Mrotz had since gotten "rid of it." Melekin added a hashtag: #ResistHate. Quickly, they realized just how hard it is to resist hate on Twitter.
The photos of the clumsily painted swastika became instant fodder for neo-Nazis active on social media, who accused Mrotz and Melekin of painting it themselves. Far-right provocateur Gavin McInnes, a prominent Fox News talking head and co-founder of Vice magazine with a track record of spewing hate and downplaying the Holocaust, weighed in on Twitter a few days after the incident. Linking to Melekin's before and after tweet, McInnes alerted his hundreds of thousands of followers to the incident. "Fuck up your hate crime hoax?" McInnes prodded. "No problem! Make fixing it part of the hoax!"
McInness accusation was retweeted more than one thousand times and became a jumping off...