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'HAMMAS' License Plates Draw Complaint From State DMV

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A controversial license plate has spread fear in a neighborhood in southern Brooklyn, and the state now wants it replaced.

As CBS 2's Tracee Carrasco reported, the black Dodge Charger parked at the corner of Bay Ridge and 3rd avenues in Brooklyn has stopped traffic – with many looking closely at the customized license plate reading "HAMMAS."

The name is spelled with an extra M, but it's believed to be a reference to the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas. The group has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.

The license plate has divided some in the neighborhood; some say it's not a big deal, while others say it scares them.

"I find it frightening to look at and I'm a little worried myself," one woman said.

"This car has nothing to do with terrorism," another woman said. "It's just a license plate, for God's sake."

But while some felt the license plate amounted to freedom of expression, the state Department of Motor Vehicles ordered the owner to remove the plates.

Despite being the agency that issued the plates in the first place, the DMV has now called them "patently offensive" because "the group represented by the name on the plate is on the list of entities designated by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization."

The DMV said the license plate was ordered online in early August, but also said it never should have been issued in the first place.

CBS 2 knocked on the door of the person believed to be the owner of the car. Residents inside said they had no comment, but one Palestinian woman who knows the car owner said the intent was simply a sign of solidarity with Palestine.

"No threats were made. Nothing happened. No one said anything," she said. "It's just a license plate. It has nothing to do with America."

New plates have been sent to the owner, but so far, only the back plate has been replaced.

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