UNR student thrown into glare of publicity
Two years ago, a young University of Nevada, Reno student named Ivy Ziedrich attracted news coverage around the world when she confronted Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush with the challenge, “Your brother created ISIS.”
Last weekend, another young UNR student named Peter Cvjetanovic attracted similar attention for a very different reason—challenging racial inclusion in the Charlottesville march: “I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture.” He did not specify who wants Euro culture removed from the U.S.
Cvjetanovic further told KTVN-TV, “[White culture] is not perfect. There are flaws to it, of course. However, I do believe that the replacement of the [Lee] statue will be the slow replacement of white heritage within the U.S. 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.”
One tweet, by Bailey Granberg—ostensibly a classmate—said that in history classes Cvjetanovic “always spouts fascist and racist comments.”
Another Cvjetanovic statement, from social media, dealt with the unplanned violence at Charlottesville that left three dead: “I did not go there to commit acts of violence, and that was not the goal of the rally, and no one was meant to be killed. I am sorry things turned out the way they did, and I give my condolences to the family of the victims, for whatever that’s worth. I hope the man responsible is punished to the full extent of the law, regardless of personal ideology.”
Cvjetanovic also said, “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.”
According to Elizabeth Johnson of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors the activities of those it considers hate groups, “This is our definition for white supremacist: someone who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races. This usually means the idea that whites should control government power. In certain cases, white supremacists also advocate ethnic cleansing and an all white state.”
The Reno student, a graduate of North Valleys High School, came to wide attention in a 21st century way. He was identified on social media after a photo of the rally released through the Getty agency showed Cvjetanovic with mouth open, looking angry, and holding a tiki torch. “I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo,” he said. Other photos of him selected from the same setting, such as one used by the New York Times, showed a less manic expression.
The story swept around the world and sparked petitions at UNR calling for punishing Cvjetanovic’s opinions with expulsion.
Cvjetanovic used care with his newfound celebrity, exempting others from being held responsible for him. When a photograph of U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and a group of College Republicans who included Cvjetanovic drew attention online, he issued a statement: “The College Republicans have nothing to do with my personal ideology, and they should not be accused or attacked in any way.”
Heller responded by tweet: “I don’t know this person & condemn the outrageous racism, hatred and violence. It’s unacceptable & shameful. No room for it in this country.” Politicians have photos taken with innumerable people, often never knowing their names. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter was once photographed with People’s Temple leader Jim Jones and George W. Bush appeared in a photo with political fixer Jack Abramoff.
It was uncertain what, if any, official role Cvjetanovic has in the CR organization. Another Charlottesville march participant, James Allsup, is the Washington State University College Republicans president.
The UNR CRs issued their own statement: “The values expressed by participants of the riots are not reflective of our organization. Allegations have come to the attention of the University of Nevada College Republicans that an individual member had involvement in the protests that have taken place. We are working diligently with the community to address these allegations and would like to clarify that these dangerous beliefs will never have a place in the College Republicans or at the University of Nevada.”
The CR statement had some of the direction and clarity that the university administration’s own statements lacked. An initial statement was widely criticized for its vague language, and a second statement—this one in UNR President Marc Johnson’s name—received slightly better reviews:
“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.”
Local online messages ran the gamut from violent to reasonable.
Angie E. Saldana: “Ima fuck up Peter Cvjetanovic if I every see him around town.”
Charles T. Walker III: “Am I really supposed to go to school here if they allow #petercvjetanovic to go here?”
Laura Gattis: “DO NOT LET HIM GO UNSHAMED.”
Molly Moo: “Calling office of student conduct to report Peter Cvjetanovic.”
Twitter user Whitney Harper dug up a 2011 tweet in which Cvjetanovic wrote: “I have to say getting slammed on the ground and being hit in the solar plex is the worst way to get hit in the world.”
Harper replied: “How bout getting hit by a car?”
After Cvjetanovic was quoted saying, “I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo,” an Oren Segal tweeted, “Then why do you have a white supremacist logo on your shirt?” The “dragon’s eye” logo was identified by the Los Angeles Times as the logo of Identity Evropa, a California-based white nationalist group.
A comment posted on the College Republicans site by Francisco Gutierrez: “What I see here is the left wanting to demonize the actions of hateful people from an view point that let’s face it, most people don’t agree with but when will you guys treat individuals or groups that are from the left who do VERY MUCH of the same or worse that these people did. I’m in no way advocating for these people or defending them but why does AntiFa and the BLM movement get passes when they loot, beat people and burn whole towns? I am a man of color and strong morals who sees nothing but hypocrisy here while radical leftist just do what they want.” He was not specific about towns the left has burned, people they have beaten, or looting they have done.
Cvjetanovic was widely criticized and occasionally supported. In Canada’s Globe and Mail, Denise Balkissoon wrote, “The idea that certain light-skinned people—currently called ’white,’ though a multisyllabic name like Cvjetanovic might not always have made the cut—deserve more than their fair share, dates back centuries.”
Brooklyn’s right wing Jewish Press called critics of the white supremacists a “lynch mob” and quoted some of Cvjetanovic’s defenses, then observed, “But there is scant room for subtleties and nuance at a lynch, and Cvjetanovic’s argument was chewed up by the leftist mob like a white tennis shoe caught by an albino golden retriever.”
A group called Yes, You’re Racist and at least one of the UNR petitions seek to get Cvjetanovic not just expelled but fired from any employment. Yes, You’re Racist says it contacts employers. “If you recognize any of the Nazis marching in #Charlottesville, send me their names/profiles and I’ll make them famous,” said a Yes, You’re Racist tweet. UNR President Johnson said at a hastily called news conference that Cvjetanovic will not be penalized either by being expelled or fired from his campus job.
The SPLC lists two Nevada organizaitions it considers hate groups: Creativity Alliance and, in Carson City, the National Alliance Reform and Restoration Group.