(JTA) – Senator Ted Cruz said during a Senate hearing with the United States Attorney General that protesters and civilians angry at local public policies have the right to make Nazi salutes in protest.
“My God! A parent gave a Nazi salute in a school board because he thought the policies were oppressive,” said Cruz yelled at Attorney General Merrick Garland, who answered a series of questions from senators on Wednesday.
Republican senators focused on a recent memo saying the Justice Department would investigate âharassment, intimidation and threats of violenceâ targeting school boards.
Cruz’s comments were intended to show that the ministry’s involvement in overseeing school board meetings is not warranted. “Is giving a Nazi salute to an elected official protected by the First Amendment?” Cruz asked Garland, who is Jewish.
âYes it is,â Garland replied.
Multiple incidents of Nazi salutes at school board meetings have taken place in recent months as school boards have become a battleground against COVID-19 prevention measures and Holocaust analogies set in. among the critics of these measures in the United States and abroad.
A salute at a school board meeting in Fox Chapel, Pa., A suburb of Pittsburgh, made national news when it took place in August. Cruz was referring to a different incident in August when police kicked a man out of a school board meeting in Birmingham, Michigan for using a Nazi salute and shouting “Heil Hitler” to protest a student mask warrant .
This incident was listed among other things in a letter from the National School Board Association, which identified such incidents as “domestic terrorism”. The association then apologized for using the term, which some Republican lawmakers have cited as evidence that the Justice Department’s scrutiny of violence at school board meetings is just an effort. to silence parental criticism of the COVID-19 rules. (Garland’s note did not use the term or list specific incidents.)
A number of Liberals and Democrats in Congress criticized Cruz, claiming he was defending the Nazis and noting that the exchange took place on the third anniversary of the Tree of Life massacre, the attack on the deadliest against Jews in US history.
“Ted Cruz just casually defended the Nazis at a congressional hearing,” representative Ilhan Omar tweeted, which was plagued by separate charges of anti-Semitism.
Cruz replied: âI defended the right of citizens to denounce authoritarian policies. In other words, OPPOSE the Nazis (or petty tyrants), not support them. “
In a separate tweet intended for a liberal journalist, Cruz said, “The parent was doing the Nazi salute because he called the authoritarian Nazi school board – bad, bad and abusive.”
A number of Leaders of Jewish organizations and Holocaust scholars objected to Nazi metaphors to describe current political tensions, saying it lessens the Holocaust.
“Nazi salutes may be protected by free speech, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t offensive symbols of hatred,” The American Jewish Committee said in a tweet in response to Cruz. “Defending them at all times, let alone on the anniversary of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, is deeply callous and inappropriate.”
Several Republican officials, including American representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, compared the authorities pushing for COVID-19 vaccination to the Nazis These last months.