US & Canada

Charlottesville white nationalist marchers face backlash

White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. August 11, 2017 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption White nationalists gathered on Friday at the University of Virginia, ahead of the "Unite the Right" rally on Saturday

Far-right white nationalists who attended rallies this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, did not cover their faces as they marched around with lit torches, chanting slogans like "you will not replace us".

But they are now facing an online backlash, as Twitter users identify and denounce them.

Calls have been made to have them kicked out of universities and sacked from their jobs.

Cole White, one of those who attended the rally has now reportedly been fired by his employer - the Top Dog hotdog restaurant chain in Berkeley, California.

The sacking came after he was identified by Yes, You're Racist, a Twitter user who has been publicly naming and shaming those who attended the rally under the hashtag #ExposetheAltRight.

Meanwhile, Peter Cvjetanovic, a 20-year-old student who was captured in one of the most widely shared photos, has defended his right to attend the "Unite the Right" rally, which centred around opposition to the removal of a statue of Civil War General Robert E Lee.

The rally descended into violent street brawls between white supremacists and counter-protesters.

Image copyright Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Image caption Peter Cvjetanovic: "I'm not an angry racist"

One woman was killed when a car drove into a crowd of counter-protesters, and US President Donald Trump has come under criticism for failing to explicitly condemn white extremist groups, including neo-Nazis.

Mr Cvjetanovic, who was also identified by Yes, You're Racist on Twitter, told local Nevada TV station KTVN Channel 2 that he understood an image of him that spread widely "has a very negative connotation".

He added: "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."

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Media captionMarissa Blair, a friend of the victim, says the Charlottesville car attack was an "act of terror"

The self-described white nationalist said he attended the march to send a message that "white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture". People like him, he said, "just want to preserve what we have".

He says he has received death threats.

Soon after he was identified on Twitter, a photo surfaced appearing to show him with Dean Heller, a Republican Senator from Nevada, alongside other students.

Mr Heller then distanced himself from the controversy.

Mr Cvjetanovic is an undergraduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno, which is now facing calls to expel him. A petition has gathered 6,500 signatures.

The university has released a statement, which did not name him, but said "racism and white supremacist movements have a corrosive effect on our society".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Vigils and marches were held on Sunday in different US cities

It noted, however, that the university respects the peaceful exchange of different views and civil debate.

The calls to have the white nationalist protesters - many of whom were young men - punished for their role in the rally is likely to add fuel to debates about free speech, especially on university campuses.

Mr Cvjetanovic says that if the university expels him it would be a "clear violation" of his first amendment rights.

Washington State University is also under pressure from some students after it was revealed its college Republican president had attended the rally.

University president Kirk Shulz tweeted: "Universities are places where controversial voices must be heard - even those voices that many in our community disagree with."

The fall-out from the events in Charlottesville has also seen web hosting company GoDaddy expel neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, after it ran an article denigrating Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed on Saturday.

In a related development, a post on the Daily Stormer front page claims the website has been hacked by Anonymous "in the name of Heather Heyer a victim of white supremacist terrorism".

However, a major Twitter feed for Anonymous distanced itself from the hack - saying it might be a hoax.

Meanwhile, a brand of "tiki torches" has distanced itself from marchers who wielded the outdoor lamps.

"We do not support their message or the use of our products in this way," TIKI Brand said in a Facebook post.

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