UVA newspaper editor: ‘I was wrong’ to defend the rights of white supremacists

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‘I was wrong about the Alt-right.’ Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A few weeks before violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, Brendan Novak wrote an opinion piece in The Cavalier Daily arguing that
“Unite the Right” rally organised by white nationalists should occur.
Novak, an editor at University of Virginia’s student paper, now calls his statement wrong and naive, in a follow-up column also cited in The New York Times.

“I was wrong about the Alt-right,” the column is titled. “I figured, maybe naïvely, that allowing them to assemble in public under the scrutiny of daylight would galvanize public opinion against their hateful beliefs and reveal the rotting foundation on which their ideology rests,” Novak wrote.

Novak originally defended the First Amendment rights of white supremacists to protest, but says he’s since changed his beliefs. He wrote:

“I defended the right of the alt-right to peacefully assemble, but they never intended for their assembly to be peaceful. They organised, applied for a permit and came to town with the full intention of inciting violence and agitating both the community and the national media … The alt-right is a domestic terrorist organisation. Their use of intimidation, terror and violence in the pursuit of their goals more than justify this categorization.”

The “Unite the Right” rally rocked the Charlottesville community after protests became violent. Apparent white supremacist James Fields rammed his car into a crowd of demonstrators, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, and two Virginia State Police also died when their helicopter crashed as they were monitoring the protests.

The rally was called in response to a plan to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville.

It’s not the first incident this summer of white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville. There had already been two Ku Klux Klan rallies in the city prior to the Unite the Right rally over the weekend.

Some UVA students believe that white supremacists will return again to Charlottesville to continue their protests.

“These people just don’t stop,” Mike Reingold, the editor in chief at the Daily Cavalier, told The Washington Post. “I really do think they will come back, perhaps in fuller force.”