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Woman wearing Nazi emblem made antisemitic comments in Laguna Woods, authorities say

LA Times logo LA Times 3/26/2022 Alex Wigglesworth
Ebrahim Baytieh, with the Orange County district attorney's office, speaks during the OC Human Relations Council's annual hate crime report release event in 2019. (Scott Smeltzer/Daily Pilot ) © (Scott Smeltzer / Times Community News) Ebrahim Baytieh, with the Orange County district attorney's office, speaks during the OC Human Relations Council's annual hate crime report release event in 2019. (Scott Smeltzer/Daily Pilot )

Orange County authorities are recommending hate crime charges against a woman who allegedly yelled antisemitic comments at a man who tried to get her to remove a swastika armband she was wearing in Laguna Woods.

The woman was wearing the armband while walking around outside Clubhouse 1, a multi-use community center, on the afternoon of March 7, Carrie Braun of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said Saturday.

A man confronted the woman and she responded with antisemitic comments, Braun said. A physical altercation then ensued as multiple men tried to remove the woman's armband, Braun said. One of the men was in his 80s, she said.

Deputies responded and took information from all parties involved. A complaint was forwarded to the district attorney’s office recommending the woman be charged with criminal threats, offensive words used to provoke a reaction and a hate crime enhancement, Braun said. She had not been charged as of Saturday, Braun said.

“We are outraged by this flagrant display of antisemitic hatred,” Peter Levi, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Friday in a statement.

Along with the statement, the organization tweeted a photo of the woman, which it said was submitted by a citizen who wished to remain anonymous. She was dressed in all black, an outfit that appeared to mimic that of a Nazi SS officer.

“We demand that Laguna Woods leaders speak out against this outrageous act of Jew-hatred and condemn acts like this which can and do inspire further incidents of antisemitism and bigotry of all kinds,” Levi said.

Laguna Woods Mayor Carol Moore on Friday released a statement saying the city was outraged by the incident, and that the delay in its public response was intended to allow the investigation to conclude.

"The city of Laguna Woods stands firmly against antisemitism, bigotry and hate in all its forms, fully and without exception," Moore said. "The conduct alleged in the disturbance is abhorrent, inexcusable, and antithetical to the character and values of our community."

Laguna Woods City Councilman Noel Hatch said Saturday that the incident came as a complete surprise.

“I’ve been here for 25 years living in the village, and there has been no indication that there is anything like this brewing,” he said.

He described it as an isolated occurrence.

“It is not germane to any concern, in my opinion, that there is something brewing here in Laguna Woods village,” he said. “It was a solo act, if you will.”

The incident comes a month after antisemitic fliers were distributed in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Cypress.

A report released last year by the Orange County Human Relations Commission found that hate crimes increased by 35% in Orange County in 2020, the largest annual jump in at least a decade.

Nationwide, antisemitic incidents declined slightly in 2020 after hitting an all-time high the year before, according to the Anti-Defamation League, but 2020 was still the third-highest year for such incidents since the organization began tracking the data in 1979.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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