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Teacher Fined $1,200 After Covering Neo-Nazi Graffiti With Paint

MAINZ, Germany — A teacher has been ordered to pay $1,200 for spraying black paint over neo-Nazi graffiti and stickers on light poles and benches near a public school. Ralf Bender, 52, challenged the 991 euros fine in a court in the German city of Limburg this week. “I did not damage any public property,” he said, arguing that “the city originally did nothing to remove the disturbing symbols” and that it was his “duty as a democrat” to take action. The display of Nazi symbols, including swastikas, is illegal under German law.

Officials argued that removing Bender's paint from at least 10 light poles will cost the city money. Alexandra Hesse, a spokeswoman for the city of Limburg, said Bender had gone too far. "If he would have just scraped off the symbols we would have given him a medal, but he went over the top," she told NBC News. A verdict in Bender's appeal is expected next month. Bender isn't the only German on such a crusade. Retired special-needs teacher Irmela Mensah-Schramm has removed more than 90,000 stickers and scribblings over the past almost three decades.

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- Andy Eckardt