A Trump supporter holds an American flag while an anti-fascist group marches into the park during a free speech rally in Berkeley, California, on April 15. Credit: Emily Molli/NurPhoto

In this week’s Hate Report: A rally dubbed “United The Right” has the potential to throw a Virginia city into chaos, a look at why hate crime victims don’t report their attackers to police and an alt-right warrior’s quest for forgiveness.

A white nationalist rally planned for Charlottesville, Virginia, next week has the potential to be the latest violent clash between the far-right and far-left.

The Unite The Right rally is scheduled to bring speakers such as Richard Spencer and members of the Nationalist Front – which formerly went by the name Aryan Nationalist Alliance – to the city’s Emancipation Park on Aug. 12. The protest is a follow-up to a demonstration in May against the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Black Lives Matter and an activist coalition called Solidarity Cville view the event as an explicit promotion of white supremacy and plan to bring out a swarm of counterprotesters. A coalition of religious leaders hopes to bring out over 1,000 faith leaders from across the country.

The location of the rally, a small park just one block from a major open-air pedestrian shopping corridor, has locals worried.

“Sending hundreds of hungry, thirsty, overheated, overcrowded people roaming around downtown, looking for a fight, is a veritable tinderbox. Under such circumstances, something as simple as a car backfiring could turn this into a mass-casualty incident,” dozens of local businesses wrote in a letter to city leaders.

Emily Gorcenski, a local activist involved in organizing the counterprotests, is worried that because of the location, violence will spill out into areas where there are preschools and churches.

“Our plan for keeping things peaceful is to document everything on social media, to honestly show what’s happening,” Gorcenski said.

In a post on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, a writer going by the handle VallistheGreeks advised attendees not to initiate violence, but to “be ready for a fight” and to “take a battle buddy” in the event violence does break out.

Similar events have triggered violence recently. An April “free speech” rally in Berkeley, California, ended with fistfights and arrests. When alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos spoke on the University of Washington campus, a protester was shot in the stomach.  

During a May protest in Charlottesville over the removal of the Lee statue, police made a handful of arrests following a brief altercation between demonstrators and counterprotesters. A police officer sustained minor injuries when he was struck in the head while breaking up the scuffle.

Jason Kessler, the former Daily Caller writer who organized the United The Right rally, was arrested at that event. He was charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to obey the commands of a law enforcement officer as well as using a megaphone to incite the crowd.

Why hate crime victims don’t tell the cops

A recent report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics contained a staggering figure: Over half of Americans targeted in hate crimes don’t report the incidents to police.

ProPublica’s Ken Schwencke provides some insight into the hurdles many victims face in telling their stories to law enforcement by reviewing stories gathered by the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

The foundation collects hate incidents in Denver. Earlier this year, it started asking residents whether they also reported those interactions to police.

In the majority of cases, no formal report was made. Their reasoning was deeply revealing:

  • A gay black man hit in the face with an egg at an anti-Trump rally called the police about it, but “the dispatchers seemed unsympathetic.”
  • A gay man harassed with homophobic taunts while shopping told law enforcement, but he was ultimately ticketed for “disturbing the peace” after making his police report.
  • A disabled lesbian whose neighbor tried to hit her with his car feared her report wouldn’t be taken seriously.

When there’s no hate crime law

A group of African American teens charged with committing a spree of robberies and kidnappings in South Carolina won’t be charged with hate crimes even though law enforcement officials believe their motivation was “a dislike for white people.”

WISTV reports:

The report from July 25, 2017 also reads that the suspect abducted the victim from the parking lot of her apartment complex and drove away with her in her car. When they took her driver’s license and found out she was black the suspects “apologized for taking her” and returned her to the complex.

The incident report from another case read that the teen suspects forced their victims to strip down to their underwear after robbing them. One of the victims also reported that he had a gun pointed at his chest by one of the suspects. The suspect asked if he knew about ‘Russian Roulette’ and then pulled the trigger. The chamber was empty.

“This was a crime spree,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. “They made a statement that they did not like white people and they were only going to rob white people.”

South Carolina is one of five states without its own hate crime law. As a result, hate crimes committed in the state have to be handled at the federal level. The federal government has the ability to charge underage suspects with hate crimes, but rarely does so.

“It shows South Carolina perhaps is not on pace with the rest of the country in terms of the significance they place on hate crimes,” U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles told WMBF earlier this year.

Once a ‘Based Spartan,’ not always a ‘Based Spartan’

John Turano is covered in milk after being pepper-sprayed during the Berkeley rally. Credit: (Photo by Emily Molli/NurPhoto)

When he showed up for the alt-right rallies in Portland, Oregon, and Berkeley that serve as models for the upcoming Unite The Right rally, John Turano cut a striking figure. Dressed in the armor of an ancient Spartan warrior (think the heroes of the film “300”), Turano brawled with the far-left antifa and earned the label “beserker of Berkeley” among his alt-right compatriots.

A video of the Berkeley protest depicted Turano throwing objects at counterprotesters and yelling, “I’ll smash on them until I can’t breathe.”

However, following a moving encounter with a political opponent in Portland in June, Turano has renounced his alt-right identification and is now protesting on the other side.

In an interview with Portland State Vanguard, Turano described his epiphany:

Turano said he used to think all antifa “hated our guts” and intended to protest violently. When Turano came to Portland on June 4, however, he said a petite Jewish counter-protester came up to him and asked, “Does my life matter?”

“It just made me feel bad,” Turano said. “I hadn’t really been paying attention; I just thought we were surrounded by all these people who hated us. But I met some people that seemed so nice.”

The next week, Turano showed up at a protest in San Bernardino, California. This time representing the other side, he carried a sign reading: “Resist hate, love only.”

Sign up to get The Hate Report by email every Friday.

Have a hate incident to report? Tell us about it here.

Or contact Aaron Sankin at asankin@revealnews.org. Follow him on Twitter: @asankin.


Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Aaron Sankin is a reporter for Reveal covering online extremism, election administration and technology policy. Before joining Reveal, he was a founding editor of The Huffington Post's San Francisco vertical and a senior staff writer on The Daily Dot's politics team. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Salon, Time, The Motley Fool, Mashable, Business Insider, San Francisco magazine and The Onion. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Sankin studied history and sociology at Rice University. His work at The Daily Dot was a finalist in Digiday's 2015 publisher of the year award, and a story he wrote about a Midwestern family being terrorized by a teenage hacker was labeled by The Atlantic as an essential piece of journalism for 2015. Sankin is based in Seattle.