Biketoberfest: Nazi-symbol hats spark outrage at Florida bike festival

Mayor Derrick Henry: "It's morally reprehensible someone would want to sell that."

WHITE NATIONALISTS give Nazi salutes during a swastika burning in the US State of Georgia in 2018. (photo credit: GO NAKAMURA/REUTERS)
WHITE NATIONALISTS give Nazi salutes during a swastika burning in the US State of Georgia in 2018.
(photo credit: GO NAKAMURA/REUTERS)

A vendor at the Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach, Florida, revved up controversy last week by selling hats featuring Nazi symbols and imagery, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

Identified only as Jenny, the vendor told the local news outlet that the merchandise was not reflective of racism on her part, saying the swastika-logoed hats were a tribute to veterans of World War II and that selling them at other biker rallies never sparked any complaints. Furthermore, not all of her merchandise contains Nazi imagery.

The Biketoberfest is a massive annual biker rally in the city that sees participants numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

The items sold caused backlash from local Floridians, including Marvin Miller, president of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler counties. 

“It’s just a shame in this day and age,” Miller explained to the News-Journal. “It never stops. We just have to deal with it and just remember that we’re still America. Unfortunately, people abuse some of the wonderful rights we have and take it to extremes to spread propaganda.”

A Nazi armband with a swastika displayed in the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Germany (credit: Wikimedia Commons)A Nazi armband with a swastika displayed in the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Germany (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Others also criticized the items sold, such as SS armbands and other Nazi insignia. 

“It’s absolutely disgusting to see a vendor selling Nazi and SS gear, but it’s even worse that the only reason they would do so is because people are actually buying it,” said visitor Jonathan Davis, who took photos of the items and shared them over Facebook, sparking the outrage, according to the News-Journal.

The items were being sold on a stand on the back deck of a local bar called Froggy's, though the bar's owner later removed them.

“I’m upset, too,” owner Bobby Honeycutt said on Friday, claiming he had first heard of the situation after the Facebook post, the News-Journal reported. “That’s not what I am. That’s not the way we think here at Froggy’s. I rent vendors a space, that’s all. If I find they are doing something wrong, I shut it down.”

Adding voice to the criticism was Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry. 

"Needless to say it's repulsive and not something we welcome and want in our city," Henry said, according to the News-Journal

"I'm a believer in First Amendment rights and I want to make sure we're not trampling on someone's rights. But it's morally reprehensible someone would want to sell that."