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Charlottesville: Mo. man ID'd in viral photo

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/17/2017 Alissa Zhu
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A southwest Missouri man has been identified as one of the more prominent faces of a white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday. 

Photographs depicting Lebanon, Mo., native and former Springfield resident Ted Von Nukem in a black shirt with his mouth open and a tiki torch in hand have been plastered across prominent national news sites.

Von Nukem’s name was outed by a former Lebanon classmate in a social media post that has been shared hundreds of times. Reached by the News-Leader, Von Nukem confirmed his identity Wednesday. He now lives "between Springfield and Joplin."

Von Nukem, 29, said he traveled to Virginia with a group of area residents to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

"The rally was not a racist rally. It was a rally to save our history," Von Nukem said, adding that he would also not like to see Union statues removed. 

Von Nukem said he's a supporter of President Trump and does not identify with some of the groups which attended the protest, including white supremacist, neo-Nazi and pro-Confederate groups.

"I don't mind showing solidarity with them," Von Nukem added, saying he believes white people are disadvantaged in the arena of identity politics. "If we don't play, we will be the field trampled by the players. You have to pick your side. You have to throw your support behind the army that is fighting for you."

Lebanon native and former Springfield resident Ted Von Nukem, in black, was identified by a former classmate as one of the people in a viral photo from a rally of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and alt-right protesters Aug. 11 in Charlottesville, Va. Fellow protester Peter Cvjetanovic, right, was also outed and identified as a student at the University of Nevada-Reno. © Anadolu Agency, Getty Images Lebanon native and former Springfield resident Ted Von Nukem, in black, was identified by a former classmate as one of the people in a viral photo from a rally of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and alt-right protesters Aug. 11 in Charlottesville, Va. Fellow protester Peter Cvjetanovic, right, was also outed and identified as a student at the University of Nevada-Reno.

Jenn George, who identified Von Nukem on social media, told the News-Leader she knew him in middle school as Teddy Landrum. Court records show Von Nukem changed his last name in 2012.

George remembers him as a smart “token goth kid” and “highly intelligent” history buff with an unsettling interest in Nazi Germany.

George said as photos of the Unite the Right protest flooded national media, the face of a black-clad, sandy-haired man seemed strangely familiar. She decided to call him out in a Facebook post with the hashtags “#makeracistsafraidagain” and “#goodnightaltright,” which had been shared more than 600 times as of Wednesday afternoon.

George told the News-Leader, “In this day and age, with everything that’s happening, you can’t let that sort of rhetoric stand. You can’t not call it out. It’s not just a fascination of people anymore. It’s not just a fantasy. People are acting out on it, and people are losing their lives over it.”

Von Nukem now joins a list of several other white supremacist marchers who have been identified online. At least one has lost a job. Another was publicly denounced by his family. Others have been intensely scrutinized.

In one photo, Von Nukem stands next to a screaming man who was outed earlier this week by a Twitter account named “Yes, You’re Racist” as Peter Cytanovic, a student at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Cytanovic, who spells his last name Cvjetanovic on social media, told a local news channel that he’s “not the angry racist” people see in the photo and defended his participation in the rally.

Von Nukem told the News-Leader said he's "not afraid of any blowback."

"I haven't lost any friends over it. I won't lose my job — I'm completely safe on that," said Von Nukem, who owns a company called AnCap Incorporated.

AnCap stands for "anarcho-capitalism," according to Von Nukem, who trains salesmen.

A few on social media pushed back against George’s efforts to reveal Von Nukem's identity. One person questioned what would be accomplished by publicizing Von Nukem’s viewpoint and giving him a platform to speak. Others argued that he should be left alone.

George told the News-Leader it was important for people to know about Von Nukem’s participation in the Charlottesville rally.

“Employers, if someone is going on a date with him, people should know what they’re dealing with,” George said.

A New York Times article cited a quote from a protest participant from Missouri who gave his name only as Ted “because he said he might want to run for political office some day.”

“I’m tired of seeing white people pushed around,” "Ted" reportedly told the New York Times.

Von Nukem told the News-Leader he doesn't remember talking to a journalist from the Times, but he agreed with the quote.

Von Nukem said he believes white people have helped other parts of the world develop.

"Were there some dark times along that road? Sure. But does that mean we need to go extinct? Absolutely not."

Von Nukem said he may consider running for Congress one day on a platform to lower taxes and to "enact the Trump agenda."

Von Nukem said the Charlottesville protests were supposed to be peaceful. He laid blame on Black Lives Matter counterprotesters for escalating violence and said he was pepper-sprayed.

Friday night, a tiki torch-wielding, Confederate flag-waving crowd of hundreds converged on the statue of Robert E. Lee. Some wore helmets and carried shields. Fights broke out as they were met with a smaller crowd of counterprotesters.

The next day, a car rammed into a group of demonstrators, killing one woman and injuring 19, as white supremacists and counterprotesters clashed in the streets.

An Ohio man, James Fields Jr., has been charged with second-degree murder and several other counts for the death of Heather Heyer.

Contributing: USA TODAY. Follow Alissa Zhu on Twitter: @AlissaZhuNL

 

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