Kane County flea market in flap over Nazi banner

An earlier version referred to merchandise that made fun of transgender issues being sold. The item in question was instead a sign, and not for sale

The Kane County Flea Market in St. Charles is being criticized over social media for a vendor's display of a Nazi banner for sale Saturday.

A visitor photographed the booth and sent it to a friend, who posted it on Facebook Sunday afternoon. By 4 p.m., it had been shared more than 300 times and had drawn at least four dozen comments, most of them critical of the flea market for allowing the display.

A flea market employee asked the vendor take down the flag Saturday afternoon, its operators said Sunday.

"He was more than happy to take it down," said Ben Robinson, a member of the family that owns the flea market business, which leases space at the Kane County Fairgrounds.

Robinson said the man has been a flea market vendor for about 30 years. He typically sells furniture and other items he obtains from people cleaning out a household.

Robinson declined to name the vendor but said he does not specialize in war or military items, and was not making a political statement.

"I don't think he was thinking about it (offending people)," he said.

The flea market prefers vendors sell antiques, collectibles and "fancy junque," according to the information sheet given to dealers when they rent a space. It prohibits the sale of X-rated items and reserves the right to expel a vendor for troublesome behavior or dishonesty.

Robinson said flea market managers do not review the content of booths before the show. During summer months, there can be hundreds of vendors.

It's not the first time they have asked someone to remove something controversial. Last year, managers asked a vendor to take down Confederate flags. Last month, somebody was asked to remove a handwritten sign for a "transgender bathroom" that pointed down to a 5-gallon bucket.

Regarding the Nazi flag, Robinson noted it is a legitimate collectible.

"For people who are war buffs, it is still quite a collectible," he said. World War II veterans often brought home battlefield souvenirs, he added.

His grandfather J.L. Robinson was in an Army unit that helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp, Robinson said, so the family understands the revulsion many have when seeing the Nazi symbol.

"As a gay male, fortunate to be part of a supportive and diverse 'flea market' family, I am very sensitive to injustice and hate on all levels. I live my life by a quote from Elie Wiesel, the Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Laureate, who died this past week. He states, 'The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference,'" Robinson wrote Sunday evening in an official apology on the flea market's Facebook page.

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