Nazi Tattoo Debate in Walla Walla

I thought the added “k” in “Skout Sniper” on the WWPD’s Twitter account was an appropriate touch to the Nazi Tattoo debate this summer.

Hyperallergic published an article on June 29 about local Walla Walla Police Officer Nat Small who sports an SS tattoo on his arm, a symbol of his scout sniper unit in the Marine Corps. To his credit, the officer decided after much public outcry, and after an alt-right rally in support of him that took place at the Police Department, to get that portion of his tattoo removed. The rally was an overwhelming display of support for Chief Bieber by alt-right supporters, some militias were even in attendance, some of them armed. Bieber spoke spoke at the event invoking Jesus and mocking activists calling for defunding the police. The controversy was at its core a failure to recognize the the double lightening bolt had an original context within the Holocaust that could not be rhetorically erased. Even his final two-page statement, the officer failed to mention the Holocaust and that the symbol was worn by men who carried out genocide against Jews in particular. Instead, the officer maintained that the symbol meant something else to him, and, therefore, the outraged public was misinformed.

The Hyperallergic article reads: “The controversy broke on June 4, when images of Small’s tattoo emerged on social media. The tattoo features the double lightning bolt symbol associated with the Nazi SS corps (Schutzstaffel), a murderous paramilitary group that pledged an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler and was instrumental in the execution of the Holocaust. The tattoo combines a brass knuckles and the name of Small’s fellow Marines Claudio Patino IV, who died in battle in 2010 during their service together in Afghanistan. In an initial statement on Facebook, the Walla Walla Police Department (WWPD) defended Small and provided an alternative explanation to his tattoo. While it recognized that the symbol is associated with Nazi Germany, the department claimed that it was “not the intent or denotation of the tattoo on Officer Small’s arm.””

I am quoted in the article: “We need to put an end to this debate now because an SS tattoo should not be a debate, not anywhere,” Semerdjian, who also heads the Syrian Studies Association, wrote in her letter. “Officer Small says that the tattoo means something else to him personally, but no one gets that creative license with a symbol of hate responsible for the death of six million Jews and millions more. The facts and history of the tattoo matter.”