A student pictured chanting white nationalist slogans during a neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville has spoken out to insist he is not “an angry racist".
Peter Cvjetanovic, a 20-year-old studying at the University of Nevada, claims he “cares for all people”.
He was pictured at the rally holding a torch in an image shared widely across social media.
“I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture,” Mr Cvjetanovic told Channel 2 News.
“It is not perfect; there are flaws to it, of course. 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 [a top general for Confederate forces during the American Civil War] is a great example of that. He wasn’t a perfect man, but I want to honour and respect what he stood for during his time.”
Mr Cvjetanovic said he was shocked at the coverage the photo of him at the protest has received.
“I did not expect the photo to be shared as much as it was. I understand the photo has a very negative connotation. But I hope that the people sharing the photo are willing to listen that I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo.”
“As a white nationalist, I care for all people. We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture. White nationalists aren’t all hateful; we just want to preserve what we have.”
The University of Nevada released a statement acknowledging that a marcher photographed was one of their students but did not name Mr Cvjetanovic specifically.
"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 colour of their skin, their religious beliefs, political beliefs, sexual orientation, ability/disability, or whether they were born in our country,” the statement said, according to Reno Gazette-Journal.
A petition has been shared online calling for Mr Cvjetanovic to be expelled from the university.
Mr Cvjetanovic has released a statement in response to the petition.
"I do not think they have the right to expel me from a public university. I went to a legal political rally to express my freedom of speech.
"I committed no acts of violence, and dispersed when told that the rally had become illegal. Therefore I did nothing illegal at that rally. I am allowed to express my political beliefs and if UNR does expel me, then it is a clear violation of my first amendment," he said.
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