Peter Cvjetanovic, the 20-year-old college student pictured in the photograph to the right, participated in the white nationalist rally that led to three deaths — and he has a message for observers.
“I did not expect the photo to be shared as much as it was,” Cvjetanovic told Channel 2 News in Nevada. “I understand the photo has a very negative connotation. But I hope that the people sharing the photo are willing to listen that I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo.”
The rally Cvjetanovic took part in, called “Unite the Right,” was organised to protest the planned removal of a confederate statue in Charlottesville honouring Gen. Robert E. Lee. The gathering included members of multiple far-right extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and self-described fascist group Vanguard America. Several marchers shouted Nazi slogans and carried confederate flags, as well as signs with Nazi imagery.
Cjetanovic said he attended the march “for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture,” and said he believed the removal of Lee’s statue symbolized “the slow replacement of white heritage” in the US.
The University of Nevada, Reno student then referenced the 14 words, one of the most famous white supremacist slogans. “We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture,” Cjetanovic said. “White nationalists aren’t all hateful: We just want to preserve what we have.”
Saturday’s rally, which featured prominent white supremacists like Richard Spencer and former KKK leader David Duke, rapidly devolved into chaos when apparent white supremacist James Fields drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, ultimately killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19. Two members of the Virginia State Police force were also killed that day after their helicopter crashed outside Charlottesville as they were monitoring the protests.
Fields is currently being held without bail on suspicion of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one hit-and-run count. His next court hearing is scheduled for August 25.
He issued a subsequent statement on Monday, in which he denounced the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and “other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”