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Facebook-banned white separatist says Trump's denunciation was all politics

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 17. 2017 9:11AM
Christopher Cantwell of Keene in a still image from the VICE News documentary “Charlottesville: Race and Terror.” (VICE NEWS)

MANCHESTER — A prominent white separatist from Keene who fought with counter protesters last weekend when a Virginia rally turned violent said President Donald Trump should have stuck with his initial response to the mayhem.

Christopher Cantwell, host of a popular alt-right podcast called “Radical Agenda,” said Wednesday that Trump’s series of statements about the violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., aren’t helping the President politically.

“I’m going to go ahead and say it’s hurting him and it’s more or less neutral for us. He gains nothing by denouncing us,” Cantwell told the New Hampshire Union Leader in a phone interview Wednesday. “That earned him nothing. They just said, ’Why did it take so long?’”

He said Trump’s condemnation of the violence from “many sides” Saturday was his most genuine and that subsequent statements were the result of political pressure.

“I don’t think he did himself any favor by denouncing us because it demoralizes some of his most enthusiast supporters and it earns him nothing with the media or the left,” Cantwell said.

Outspoken and unapologetic about the views that have landed him on several hate watchlists, Cantwel has found himself being praised by some and vilified by others for his role in the weekend’s events.

Cantwell’s Facebook page was shut down by the social media company this week. Cantwell’s YouTube account also appeared to have been terminated.

In response to the social media blackout, Cantwell said Thursday he was not surprised.

“Facebook is run by Jews. What did anyone expect?” he wrote in a text.

Cantwell was featured throughout an HBO Vice News documentary on the Virginia rally and the violent clashes that ensued between right-wing demonstrators rallying to protest the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee and crowds of counter protesters Friday and Saturday nights.

Cantwell said that the counter protesters initiated the fighting.

“They’re the perpetrators of the violence here,” Cantwell said. “Whatever anybody thinks about our opinions, those are the people who are stifling peaceful political speech.”

Organizers had obtained a permit for the rally from the city, which attempted to move it out of downtown to another park. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and Rutherford Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of rally coordinators and a federal judge ruled the groups had the right to gather at Emancipation Park.

Cantwell said the city bungled the weekend protests and should also accept some responsibility for what happened.

“They gave us just a little corner of the park. They wouldn’t let us get our cars anywhere near it, so we had to walk through this gauntlet of rocks and pepper spray to go to our peaceful demonstration,” Cantwell said. “We wanted to go out and have a peaceful demonstration with a permit at this particular event and we knew that people were going to attack us. We went there prepared to hurt the people who were going to hurt us.”

Cantwell said he knows that his view of events differs from the public perception, which he felt was distorted by the national media, sensationalizing the white separatists’ agenda. Cantwell makes a living by being unpopular and embraces it, as he showed in the HBO footage that has gone viral since it first aired.

Cantwell has also posted three hours of audio from the Vice News interviews, which he said provides more context to his statements and views than what aired.

“They did their best to make me look like a monster, not that I’m complaining. I thought it was very entertaining,” he said.

Cantwell celebrates his views, which are well known to groups that track the alt-right and other movements associated with separatism.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has a file on Cantwell in its “Extremist Database,” which the group describes as profiles of prominent extremists and extremist organizations.

Like Cantwell, the SPLC doesn’t mince words in its assessment.

“Cantwell has frequently advocated for violence on his show and exhibited a temperament that can only be described as volatile,” the center said in a story posted Tuesday about organizers of the rally.

Cantwell has become more well known since last weekend. He said he routinely gets death threats, but not nearly as many as have reached him since the Vice special aired.

The national aftermath from the weekend continued Wednesday when Trump announced the disbanding two business advisory councils following multiple resignations of corporate leaders angered by Trump’s varying responses to Charlottesville.

Trump’s initial remarks condemning the violence that occurred while holding “many sides” responsible was followed by a sharply delivered statement Monday denouncing white surpremicists, neo-Nazis and “other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

The political goodwill he received for the statement dissolved the next day when Trump went off track during a news conference on infrastructure policy and spoke again about Charlottesville, asserting that counter protesters “came violently attacking the other group.”

Cantwell said Trump should have stood by his first statement.

He also questioned Trump’s motives when he delivered the revised remarks Monday, wondering whether daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, who are Jewish, influenced the President.

Cantwell is open about his opposition to the faith, which showed on video footage from the torch-lit march Friday night as he and others chanted “Jews will not replace us!” and other separatist slogans.

“I don’t think Donald Trump feels about race the way I do,” Cantwell said. “I genuinely think he’s being honest when he says, ’Look, we want to live in harmony in this nation. I kind of like that idea, frankly. I ran with that idea for a long time.’”

Social media networks Twitter and LinkedIn, music service Spotify and security firm Cloudflare were among the companies cutting off services to hate groups or removing material that they said spread hate.

Facebook, Alphabet (Google's parent company) and GoDaddy also took steps to block hate groups this week. 

The wave of internet crackdowns against white nationalists and neo-Nazis reflected a rapidly changing mindset among Silicon Valley firms on how far they are willing to go to police hate speech.

Tech companies have taken down violent propaganda from Islamic State and other militant groups, in part in response to government pressure. But most internet companies have traditionally tried to steer clear of making judgments about content except in cases of illegal activity.

Cloudflare, which protects some 6 million websites from denial-of-service attacks and hacking, on Wednesday afternoon dropped coverage of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer.

“I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the internet,” Cloudflare founder and Chief Executive Matthew Prince said in an email to employees.

Cloudflare is well-known for defending even the most distasteful websites, and services like it are essential to the functioning of websites.

Daily Stormer helped organize the weekend rally in Charlottesville where a 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 people were injured when a man plowed a car into a crowd protesting the white nationalist gathering.

Daily Stormer has been accessible only intermittently the past few days after domain providers GoDaddy and Google Domains said they would not serve the website.

By Wednesday, Daily Stormer had moved to a Russia-based internet domain, with an address ending in .ru. Later in the day, though, the site was no longer accessible at that address.

Reuters news service contributed to this report.

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