The founder of a group that removes hate symbols was shocked to learn that he was not allowed to remove a swastika from a public park in a Quebec village.

An open-air museum in Pointes-des-Cascades, Que., nearly an hour outside of Montreal, features dozens of historical anchors, including one with an engraved swastika on one side.

Corey Fleischer, known for removing hate symbols with the graffiti-removing group Erasing Hate, said he was called to the park by a concerned citizen regarding the hate symbol displayed on the anchor. When he arrived at the park he approached the anchor thinking someone had spray painted a swastika, but noticed the symbol was engraved and had been outlined in black by the city.

“I decided to remove the paint around the swastika that the city had painted on this ancient World War Two anchor,” Fleischer told CTV Montreal. “To have such a sign of hate in a public space is completely unacceptable.”

Fleischer was spotted by the local mayor, Gilles Santerre, who then called the Quebec provincial police. Fleischer agreed to leave after officers warned him that he could be arrested for damaging city property.

But Fleischer explained to CTV News Channel that the white circle behind the black swastika, which is emblazoned on the anchor, is a Nazi symbol and the centrepiece of the Nazi flag.

“What differentiates a Nazi swastika to all other swastikas… is a white circle behind a (black) swastika,” Fleischer told CTV News Channel. “When I showed up to that park I knew it was a Nazi swastika.”

A small plaque exists below the anchor but does not give much historical context, only saying that the anchor was found at the bottom of Lake St. Louis in 1988.

While it is possible that the ship is from the Second World War, some historians believe the anchor predates the war. It’s believed the anchor came from a British merchant ship when swastikas were regarded as a sign of good fortune.

The painting of the anchor, however, was carried out by officials with the village after the anchor was lifted from Lake St. Louis.

Cathy Bonneville, a Pointes-des-Cascades resident, was puzzled to learn that the anchor had induced controversy as it’s a piece of history.

“Go to the Louvre and see if they’ll enjoy you throwing something on a painting because you don’t like the painting,” Bonneville said.

A written statement from the town says the park is an open-air museum meant to allow people to discover the history of the area. But Fleischer refutes the fact that it’s an open-air museum, saying it’s simply a public park.

According to Santerre, the anchor will be staying but new plaques will be installed to provide more historical context.

With a report from CTV Montreal’s Stephane Giroux