UPDATE: After reading that Lawrence Betsinger is a registered sex offender, Bloomsburg Fair management has told him to leave the fair and not come back.
The 161st Bloomsburg Fair is in full swing out in lovely Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. If you went out there this weekend, you could have visited the Antique Farm Museum, seen a show featuring Bengal tigers, and ate all sorts of fried fair food. And you could have also purchased a Nazi flag.
Pennsylvania resident Chloe Winters visited the Bloomsburg Fair and was surprised to see a Nazi flag prominently displayed at one booth, right next to a Donald Trump flag. She posted the above photo of the booth on Facebook, but says that Facebook has removed the photo because it violates community standards.
“I was absolutely shocked and appalled when I saw this Nazi flag hanging at the Bloomsburg Fair yesterday,” Winters wrote on Facebook. “This flag represents the brutal and horrific genocide of innocent people. It stands for the hatred and destruction of a religion I feel blessed to be a part of. It’s 2016 and the world is still full of SO MUCH hate. When is it going to end? I’m sad to say that I’ll never go to the Bloomsburg Fair again, but it looks like I’m not wanted there anyway.”
Bloomsburg Fair treasurer Bob Beishline tells Philly Mag that the fair’s concessions manager paid a visit to the booth on Monday morning and that the merchant in question took the flag down.
“I’ve been doing this shit for 45 years,” says Lawrence Betsinger, the man with the Nazi flags. (He’s seen here in his Megan’s Law photo… more on that later.) “I can’t see where it would be some tragic thing just because somebody bitched and moaned about it.”
On Monday morning, Bloomsburg Fair president Paul Reichart issued the following statement:
We were initially unaware of the flag and other merchandise being displayed by a vendor on our fairgrounds. Most posts were made after midnight, and as soon as we were made aware of it early this morning, we took the appropriate action with the vendor to remove those items. Unfortunately, we have over 1200 vendors on our fairgrounds and it’s difficult to monitor each one individually. Whenever someone brings something like this to our attention, we always discuss it with the vendor and take any steps to maintain a family-fun atmosphere at our fair.
We asked Betsinger if he could understand why someone might be offended by the presence of a Nazi flag. First, he corrected us, explaining that it’s referred to as a historical German flag, not a Nazi flag.
“If you don’t want it, don’t look at it,” he continued. “I’m not making anybody buy it. I guess there’s no First Amendment at the Bloomsburg Fair.”
Betsinger says that the fair confiscated all of his Nazi flags as well as some Confederate flags he had for sale.
As for the Donald Trump flags, he says he’s allowed to keep those and that they’ve been selling well. He also has “Hillary for President” and “Hillary for Prison” flags available. Betsinger says that he’s sold a few of the prison flags and exactly zero of the Hillary for President flags.
In addition to being a seller of Nazi flags, Betsinger is also a registered sex offender. In 2007, he was charged with more than 20 counts related to child pornography. He eventually entered a plea deal and was sentenced to probation. He’s required to be on Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law sex offender registry until the day he dies.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he insists. “I downloaded some shit on the Internet, and now I’m being punished for the rest of my life.”
Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.