Swastika spotted on St. Paul jogging path

The swastika image stuck in Larry Hosch's head as he took his run through St. Paul.

The swastika image stuck in Larry Hosch's head as he took his run through St. Paul.

Thursday was a beautiful day for a run in St. Paul.

And Larry Hosch is not one to let that go to waste.

Hosch, a policy staffer with the Department of Human Services, stepped out of his office Thursday midday for a run along a familiar route, from downtown St. Paul toward Lake Phalen. It's roughly a "six to eight mile" round trip. 

Hosch was passing through Swede Hollow, midway between his office and his turnaround point, when he passed a white symbol spraypainted onto the path below him. A swastika. Hosch's momentum carried him forward, but the presence of a symbol of hate on a popular path gnawed at him.

"This was blatantly in the middle of a heavily trafficked pathway," says Hosch, a former four-term DFL member of the Minnesota House, representing the Saint Joseph area. "I thought of all the people I normally run by who, if they saw that, probably wouldn't feel that welcomed in our community." 

Hosch continued along his loop, knowing he'd be circling back to the same spot about 20 minutes later. When he returned, Hosch, 39, stopped to do three things. He gathered leaves from nearby and placed them over the Nazi marking, temporarily hiding it from view. 

As he did so, another runner came by, saw what Hosch was doing and thanked him, calling the swastika "disgusting." 

Hosch also called a friend he's made on the St. Paul City Council, alerting them of the hurtful graffiti. Given the reaction he heard on the other end of the line, Hosch is confident the city was reacting to the symbol "literally within seconds" to get it removed.

Lastly, Hosch took a photo of the marking and tweeted it for posterity.

It is, to him, a symbol of an ugly moment in American politics. He's run that route regularly in the four years since he took this job with the state of Minnesota. Thursday, two days after the election, was the first time he'd seen anything like this.

"It's not necessarily that was there because of President-elect [Donald] Trump," Hosch says. "But I think some of the rhetoric going around, I believe, makes some people feel they can be more outwardly facing with these kind of feelings -- as repulsive as they may be."

Trump's campaign had the explicit support of nativist and racist organizations, including in Minnesota, where a white nationalist group robocalled potential Iron Range voters on the eve of the state Republican caucus.

Indeed, the St. Paul sighting is far from the first swastika captured in a public space since Tuesday's election. Others have been spotted in New York, Philadelphia, Vermont, and Newtown, Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday morning, a black student at Maple Grove High School documented graffiti on a bathroom stall door that read "Fuck niggers," "whites only," and "Trump," among other messages.

"The current environment is more conducive toward encouraging people to do these things," Hosch says. Though this swastika needed to be covered up in the moment, he says he'd rather know this sentiment is out there; otherwise, there's no way of ever curing it. "I'd rather be able to confront it on a one-to-one basis, rather than have it hidden. Maybe this is an opportunity to have an honest conversation."