A University of Nevada, Reno student who was identified as a marcher in a Friday white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, denounced the violence that erupted Saturday and led to three people’s deaths.
Reno television station KTVN on Saturday identified 20-year-old Peter Cvjetanovic among the marchers at Friday night’s “Unite the Right” rally, staged to protest the mandated removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. A photo of an open-mouthed, tiki-torch-toting Cvjetanovic at the rally went viral on social media Saturday.
On Saturday, fights broke out among the white nationalists and counterprotesters at another rally. Amid the pushing and shoving, a silver Dodge Challenger with Ohio license plates drove through a group of counterprotesters, wounding 19 people and killing a woman. Police have charged 20-year-old Maumee, Ohio, resident James Alex Fields Jr., who they say was driving the car, with second-degree murder and other counts. Also, a state police helicopter deployed to the protests crashed outside the city, leaving two state troopers dead.
— Laura the Explorer (@TheGreatGattis) August 13, 2017
Cvjetanovic declined to comment to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Saturday evening. But around noon Sunday, he texted a statement to the newspaper describing his involvement in the rally:
“I went to honor the heritage of white culture here in the United States,” he wrote. “I recognize the need to acknowledge both the good and bad of white history as it has made the nation we have now. All people have the right to their culture and their history including jews, african-americans, and white americans. I do not advocate for violence and certainly not the death of anyone. Today became a tragedy with the three fatalities.”
On Saturday’s 11 p.m. newscast, he told KTVN:
“I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture. It is not perfect; there are flaws to it, of course, I do not deny that. However, I do believe that the replacement of the statue will be the slow replacement of white heritage within the United States and the people who fought and defended and built their homeland. Robert E. Lee is a great example of that. He wasn’t a perfect man … but I want to honor and respect what he stood for during his time.”
A flurry of Facebook and Twitter posts on Saturday and Sunday labeled Cvjetanovic a racist and called for his expulsion from the university. The thisisreno.com website reported that the Twitter account @PCvjetanovic had been deleted after numerous tags identified Cvjetanovic in the photograph.
The university’s website posted a statement from UNR President Marc A. Johnson, who stated that “racism and white supremacist movements have a corrosive effect on our society” and that the rally’s message does not reflect the university’s egalitarian values.
Johnson did not acknowledge pressure to expel or suspend the student in his statement Sunday but stressed that “peaceful assembly and exchange of ideas is part of the bedrock of any free society.”
The university will maintain its commitment to the safe, peaceful expression and exchange of ideas on campus, he said.
“Educating ourselves on the other’s point of view is the key to understanding and peaceful co-existence,” Johnson said. “The tragedy that occurred this weekend in Virginia is an important reminder that we must recognize the perspectives of all individuals.”
Amid the controversy, pictures surfaced that purported to show Cvjetanovic and other students standing next to U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., at an undated event.
On Saturday, Heller said on Twitter that he didn’t know Cvjetanovic.
I don't know this person & condemn the outrageous racism, hatred and violence. It's unacceptable & shameful. No room for it in this country. https://t.co/6yQqKZRowb
— Dean Heller (@SenDeanHeller) August 13, 2017
“I don’t know this person &condemn the outrageous racism, hatred and violence. It’s unacceptable &shameful. No room for it in this country,” Heller tweeted.
Also on Twitter on Saturday, Gov. Brian Sandoval joined Heller in denouncing the violence.
The attack in #Charlottesville is horrific & should never happen in the US. NV stands in solidarity w/ all who march against hatred & racism
— Governor Sandoval (@GovSandoval) August 13, 2017
“The attack in #Charlottesville is horrific &should never happen in the US. NV stands in solidarity w/ all who march against hatred &racism.”
Contact Matthew Crowley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @copyjockey on Twitter. Review-Journal reporters Bianca Cseke and Rachel Hershkovitz contributed to this report.
University of Nevada, Reno statement from President Marc A. Johnson
“We have been witness to the violence that has taken place this weekend during the white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. One of the marchers photographed has been identified as a University of Nevada, Reno student.
Racism and white supremacist movements have a corrosive effect on our society. These movements do not represent our values as a university. We denounce any movement that targets individuals due to the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, political beliefs, sexual orientation, ability/disability, or whether they were born in our country. As an institution, we remain firm in our commitment in denouncing all forms of bigotry and racism, which have no place in a free and equal society.
The University of Nevada, Reno is a caring and safe community of students and employees from a broad range of backgrounds with differing beliefs. This community will not be divided by hateful language and violence. Our learning environment respects the right to freely express views and debate openly in civil discourse. There will be clashes of beliefs and opinions, but they must be peaceful. As a community, we abhor violence and it has no place on our campus. If we are to come to greater understanding of each other, it will be through open, honest, non-violent discussion and exploration of all ideas. Educating ourselves on the other’s point of view is the key to understanding and peaceful co-existence.
The tragedy that occurred this weekend in Virginia is an important reminder that we must recognize the perspectives of all individuals. Peaceful assembly and exchange of ideas is part of the bedrock of any free society. We will maintain a commitment to the safe, peaceful expression and exchange of ideas on our campus.”
— Statement released by UNR communications department