Open questions for student who grabbed swastika sign

The young woman who made off with another student’s swastika sign is trying to figure out what to do with all that money. Also, what will happen in court?

Grae Hosmanek, 19, has raised more than $1,000 to cover her court costs on a GoFundMe page, and a California lawyer has offered to represent her for free, after she was cited for grabbing and ripping up a man’s swastika sign at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.

Hosmanek, an elementary education major at UWM, said she doesn’t regret it and would do it again. She reportedly took and tore up the sign outside, near the library. The man, who was a student, had been walking around with the sign on May 6, 2019, near an event celebrating the birth of Israel.

A man with a swastika sign was near a pro-Israel event at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee on Monday, May 6, 2019. Elana Kahn, center, and Allison Hayden at right, both of the Jewish Community Relations Council, spoke with him. Photo by Rob Golub.

The event had been sponsored by Students Supporting Israel at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and Hillel Milwaukee.

California lawyer Bobby Samini has agreed to represent Hosmanek for free, Hosmanek said. Samini is known for having represented former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in his litigation with the National Basketball Association.

Hosmanek created her GoFundMe page with a $300 goal, to cover the fine associated with her vandalism citation, but she raised $1,039 as of Chronicle press time. “I am totally blown away,” she said.

She has asked her friends what to do with the money. “They really want me to keep the money in the activism world,” she said.

How it unfolded

Hosmanek, a Brookfield native who is not Jewish, describes her politics as “hippy-dippy.”

She was walking from her Native American studies class when she saw the sign and how upset people were. She saw that people were approaching the man to talk to him, so she realized she could walk slowly and calmly over there and then grab the sign.

Grae Hosmanek

She told her friends of her plan and when a campus police officer overheard, she was told not to do it, she said. She did it anyway. She slinked over there and then ran off at top speed to cheers from the nearby crowd, she recalled.

“I completely took him by surprise,” she said. “I felt like a marathon runner.”

After she ripped the sign up, the officer who warned her gave her an “I-told-you-so look,” she said. She said she was given a $456 ticket for resisting/obstructing an officer and a pair of warnings, for theft and vandalism.

Hosmanek recalls that she did not resist anything. “I just stood there,” she said.

Two days later, campus police called and dropped the citation to vandalism, accompanied by a $267 fine. That’s the charge she’s now facing, with a Sept. 27 court date.

She’s had two court appearances so far and was offered a plea deal of a $1 fine for vandalism, she said. She declined. She doesn’t want it on her record.

“I just thought that this whole thing is just kind of ridiculous,” she said. “I feel like I’m on the wrong side of the coin for this. I feel like I shouldn’t have been the one getting arrested for this.”