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California White Supremacist Says Charlottesville May Boost Recruitment

Bert Johnson/KQED
Nathan Damigo, founder of Identity Evropa and a prominent figure in the white nationalist movement in California, photographed on April 27, 2017.

Nathan Damigo, leader of the California-based white nationalist organization Identity Evropa, says that the violent ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend that left three dead might turn out to be an opportunity to connect with more recruits for his organization.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to, for the first time, realize that they’re not getting the full story,” he told KQED in an interview on Monday.

Damigo, who KQED profiled in the wake of his involvement in the Charlottesville protest, was a scheduled speaker and helped organize the event. He served a four-year prison sentence for robbing a cab driver at gunpoint in 2007, then gained online fame when he was caught on video punching a female counter-protester in the face during a violent rally in Berkeley earlier this year. After police intervened during street fights between white supremacist attendees and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, he was arrested for failing to disperse and then was released.

Speaking on the phone, he compared the event and its fallout to contentious marches during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. “I think there will be some people that, as a result of that process, will come over to us,” he said.

He alleges that mainstream accounts of Saturday’s events don’t reflect the full story and that when people hear the version of events promoted by himself, his friend and ally Richard Spencer, and other white supremacist figures, it will lead them to question wider society.

“These same people are still dealing with the harsh realities, in which there is this anti-white culture,” he asserted, accusing the government of pursuing policies that aim to replace white people in the workplace and society at large through nonwhite immigration.

Clashes on Saturday between white supremacists attending the event and anti-racist activists culminated in an attack during which James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring nineteen. Damigo called the death “tragic,” but questioned the narrative that has been widely circulated by news media.

“As of last night, more pictures and video came out that really make what happened kind of too ambiguous to really make a judgment call,” he said.

On his Twitter feed, Damigo also reposted a short video clip purporting to offer another angle on the collision between the silver Dodge Challenger and crowd members, which he and other right- wing figures claim proves the car was set upon by people with sticks and other objects before it rammed into the crowd.

However, the clip shows the front of the car as it quickly backs away, revealing that the bumper had already been nearly destroyed and the windshield had already been cracked – in essence, this is a view of the aftermath to the attack, being paraded as the lead-up to the incident itself.

Damigo was also sharply critical of the police response, accusing the authorities of allowing both sides to fight with each other, in hopes of allowing violence to occur, which they could then disavow. “They were just looking for an excuse, for violence to occur, in which they could shut down the event,” he alleged.

At an earlier press conference with Richard Spencer, who was also a speaker at the event, Damigo claimed that police pushed him and members of his group back through a hostile crowd of counter-protesters, causing further confrontations.

In an earlier conversation with KQED, however, Damigo admitted that he and his group actively seek controversy in order to keep themselves in the public eye. “The more these people kick and scream and whine and cry, the more publicity we get,” he explained.

Moving forward, Damigo said he plans to return to Charlottesville for another rally, and also reiterated his plans to bring Spencer to Berkeley for a future public event.

Copyright 2017 KQED