White supremacist Christopher Cantwell has been arrested for his activities at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville earlier this month. He turned himself in to the Lynchburg Police Department in Virginia. Cantwell was charged with two felony counts of illegal use of tear gas and one felony count of malicious bodily injury by means of caustic substance. Cantwell’s preliminary hearing is set for October 12. Cantwell is being held without bail.
Cantwell is most recently best known for two videos. The first was VICE‘s documentary on Charlottesville. The second was the “Crying Nazi” video, where Cantwell cried over hearing he was wanted for arrest.
In interviews this weekend prior to his arrest, Cantwell said he felt that charges may stem from a photo in which Cantwell is shown pepper spraying a man.
Cantwell said “I thought that spraying that guy was the least damaging thing I could do. In my left hand I had a flashlight. My other option, other than the pepper spray, was to break this guy’s teeth. O.K.? And I didn’t want to do that. I just wanted him to not hurt me.”
The report leading to Cantwell’s arrest was filed by trans rights activist Emily Gorcenski. She said: “He sprayed basically the whole group. The whole thing was scary. I was targeted by people wearing swastika pins. It was terrifying.” Gorcenski also said that she believed her report was the cause of one, but not all, of the charges against Cantwell.
In the VICE documentary, Cantwell promises there will be more blood after Charlottesville. One of the most chilling parts is when Cantwell says “I think that a lot more people are going to die before we’re done here.”
On the other hand, in the “crying Nazi” video, he talks about his desire for peace. “I wanna be peaceful, I want to be law-abiding…. we have done everything in our power to be peaceful!”
The “Crying Nazi” video has been derided by some as propaganda. Critics point out that there are no actual tears in the video. They claim that the video is an attempt to shape the narrative — to posit Cantwell as the “hero” who’s at a dark moment in the “story.” This will position himself to come back and say that he’s justified in using violence due to the “oppression” against him.
While it remains to be seen if this is the case, Cantwell is still positioning himself as the hero of his own story. He’s said “I don’t think I did anything wrong, and I’m looking forward to my day in court.”