I had come to Charlottesville, Virginia for the “Unite the Right” rally to gauge the level of Jew hatred, amid all the racism and bigotry. So when, after a night of hate-filled demonstrations and a morning of clashes, the mayor cancelled all permits and kicked the white supremacists out of Emancipation Park, I wasn’t sure what to do until I got wind of a rumor that one hard-core gang had decamped to another park in this idyllic college town.
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I headed to McIntyre Park with a few other reporters and was glad — if that’s the right word — to find a crowd of about 100 flowing into the space. A few miles away in downtown, a driver had rammed his car into counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19. But in McIntyre Park, a riotous group of men — one bare-shirted, the better to show off his swastika tattoo, another being treated for a deep gash in his head — was shouting angrily, at reporters, communists, socialists, bitches ... and Jews.
“[L]ittle Mayor Signer — SEE-NER — how do you pronounce this little creep’s name?” asked Richard Spencer, a right-wing leader who dreams of a “white ethnostate,” as he stood on a bench under a tree to rally his troops, deprived of their protest.
The crowd knew exactly how to pronounce his name: “Jew, Jew, Jew, Jew” some shouted out. The rest burst out in laughter. And that was one of the only moments of levity the alt-right audience gathered under the tree enjoyed.
“The idea that I’d ever back down to such a little creep like Mayor Signer,” Spencer went on, “They don’t understand what’s in my heart, they don’t understand the ‘alt-right,’ they don’t understand this whole movement.” The term “alt-right” has many meanings, but Spencer’s mission is the salvation of what he sees as an oppressed white race.
After stepping down from the bench, I asked Spencer about the reference to the mayor and his faith. Signer, a Democrat who assumed office last year, is Jewish.
“I didn’t say that,” Spencer said. “I don’t know if he’s a Jew or not. Is he?”
A member of the group of supporters surrounding Spencer and the reporters volunteered an answer: “He is a Jew.”
“I actually don’t care. He could be Ethiopian,” Spencer added. “The way that he acted is absolutely outrageous. He looks like a fool and we’re going to make him look like an even bigger fool. That’s a lot of fun.”
When another reporter asked Spencer why he is using offensive language when speaking about a mayor who was democratically elected by residents of the city, Spencer responded: “Who cares? Hitler was elected. That’s what you guys always say.”
But then Spencer, a relatively young member of the American far right, was eclipsed by the arrival of an elder of the movement with even more name recognition and status.