'Get out of my face:' El Sobrante man barked at protest against his swastika

The East Bay man who built a swastika into his front yard shows no sign of removing it. 

That, despite growing pressure, and a Thursday protest rally that drew dozens of people in El Sobrante. 

Homeowner Steve Johnson made a brief appearance at the demonstration - with little to say- and expressing displeasure at the notoriety his property has received the past few weeks. 

"No comment," he snapped, when asked what his plans are for the large concrete swastika he constructed a few weeks ago. "Get out of my face!" 

The swastika is obscured by blankets and a truck parked on top of it now, but for community members it is still outrageous.

"No hate, no fear, all are welcome here," chanted protesters at the intersection of Appian Way and San Pablo Dam Road. 

Critics are demanding Johnson tear the structure out, and also offering to help him do so. 

"White nationalism is very much on the rise right now," said protest organizer Nancy Burke, "and he felt emboldened to put that in his front yard, across from a Jewish family, which for me a Jew, would be completely terrifying."

When KTVU first met Johnson in early June, he denied having Nazi sympathies and gave several reasons for the concrete design: to match his porch railings, to kill weeds in his yard, and as a nod to a Tibetan symbol. 

"I ain't got no hatred in me, there's no hatred in me, I love everybody," he said at the time. 

But speaking to Johnson Thursday, his motorcycle had an unmistakable decal affixed to it: a swastika.  

Asked what he thought of the protest? 

"They can protest what they want, that's their business, but come up in front of my house, that's my business," said Johnson before riding away. 

Stevens is a retired welder, who neighbors say was raised in the house he still lives in.  

"He's not a Nazi, he just likes that symbol," said longtime neighbor Jan Hall, who was disturbed by the swastika and quizzed Johnson about it. "For some reason he likes that symbol, but he does not understand the connotation, he really doesn't." 

Protesters have their doubts. 

"I'm not a mind-reader, and I can't say what it represents to him," said organizer Jennifer Huber, "but it represents to the community is genocide, and bigotry and hatred and the Holocaust." 

Hall believes Johnson will modify or remove the structure once the outcry has died down.

But opponents vow to keep up the pressure.  

"It's scary, it gives me chills, it's gross," said Corbett Redford, helping lead chants on a bullhorn. 
"I haven't been able to sleep, I felt something had to be done, and we come together and raise our voices, we feel a little less hopeless." 

As an unincorporated area, El Sobrante doesn't have city statutes governing displays on private property, but community organizers are conveying their concerns to their county supervisor.