Christopher Cantwell is a prominent white supremacist featured in Vice Media’s report on the violence in Charlottesville, Charlottesville: Race and Terror. He’s also seen in a viral video crying and worrying about being arrested. On August 23, authorities confirmed that he turned himself in.
On August 17, Catnwell wrote on his website that he’s in an “undisclosed location just outside of Virginia, preparing to turn myself in to the University of Virginia police.” Authorities told CNN on August 23 that Cantwell surrendered to police.
The 36-year-old Cantwell, who runs a podcast called Radical Agenda, is heard sharing his anti-Semitic and racist views in the Vice film, even telling reporter Elle Reve that he doesn’t think President Donald Trump is racist enough because he allowed his daughter Ivanka Trump to marry the Jewish Jared Kushner. “I don’t think that you can feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with the beautiful girl,” Cantwell said.
Here’s what you need to know about Cantwell.
1. Cantwell Turned Himself Into University of Virginia Police on August 23
Since the Vice report went viral, another video with Cantwell is gaining attention on the web. In it, he’s seen crying after learning that police have issued a warrant for his arrest. “I’m terrified, I’m afraid you’re going to kill me, I really am,” he says in the video.
“I want to be peaceful, I want to be law-abiding, okay? That was the whole entire point of this,” Cantwell says. “And I’m watching CNN talk about this as violent, white nationalist protest — we have done everything in our power to keep this peaceful. We are trying to make this peaceful, we are trying to be law-abiding.”
However, in the Vice report, Cantwell, who helped organize the “Unite the Right,” is seen carrying weapons. At the end of the report, Reeve catches up with Cantwell in a hotel room after Heather Heyer‘s death. He’s seen readying a cache of weapons, including pistols and assault rifles.
“These people want violence and the right is just meeting market demands,” Cantwell says in the last line of the Vice report.
In an interview with The Sentinel Source, Cantwell called the counter-protesters in Charlottesville “communist agitators.”
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the communist agitators who attacked us over and over and over again,” he told The Sentinel. “And I think that my men showed extraordinary restraint out there because we were heavily armed, and not a shot was fired. They are very lucky that only one person died in those riots.”
Cantwell has since expanded upon his vital “crying” video, writing that he’s hiding in an “undisclosed location” outside of Virginia and plans on turning himself in to the University of Virginia Police.
“I was informed by the FBI that there is a warrant for my arrest there, presumably for the brawl which followed the torch march from Friday night,” Cantwell wrote. “I was uncertain if this warrant was real, since I had only heard it as a rumor until the FBI confirmed it last night. Right now I am seeking an attorney, and a trustworthy person nearby to hold onto my property. Once I have those things straightened out, I’ll be on my way to surrender myself.”
Cantwell also wrote that his video has been taken out of context by “communist propaganda networks.”
“I only defended myself and others at University of Virginia. I have not initiated force against anyone,” he wrote. “At University of Virginia, I specifically demanded from our security that they coordinate with law enforcement, and law enforcement specifically said they would remove our opposition from our path before the march, to avoid exactly the scenario I am now about to be arrested for.”
Cantwell confirmed that his YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts have all been closed. He also wrote that PayPal, the “most important part of my financial life,” has shut him out.
On August 23, University of Virginia police confirmed that he turned himself in. The warrants for his arrest stemmed from an incident during the torch-lit march on August 11, the night before the deadly rally. He was charged with a count of malicious bodily injury by means of a caustic substance and two felony counts of illegal use of teargas.
“I thought that spraying that guy was the least damaging thing I could do,” Cantwell told the New York Times. “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.”
“He sprayed basically the whole group,” activist Emily Gorcenski, who filed the report against Cantwell on August 12 that led to his arrest, told the Times. “The whole thing was scary. I was targeted by people wearing swastika pins. It was terrifying.”
2. Facebook Banned Cantwell’s Instagram & Facebook Accounts After the Vice Report
Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja confirmed to the Associated Press that Cantwell’s Facebook and Instagram pages have all been banned. His twitter account was also suspended.
Cantwell confirmed that on his website, ChristopherCantwell.com. “If you’re not on my mailing list, our communications are at the discretion of left wing lunatics,” reads a statement on his site.
Cantwell also posted the full three-hour audio of his interview with Vice Media. He also posted another essay called “Cantwell Says Lay Low,” where he tells his readers that he doesn’t “want to lose anyone in vain.” Instead, he fears there will be a war if someone shoots at them and they retaliate.
“I’m not saying I wouldn’t take that bullet. I’m not saying that you should not be ready to take that bullet. That bullet isn’t the bullet that I am worried about,” Cantwell writes. “My fear is this. If someone shoots at our guys, it will start a war. Our men will fire back, and we will do far more damage than the communists have done to date. We will end many lives, before military and law enforcement move in on us and end ours. Riots will erupt from coast to coast. The political instability that will follow could endanger the presidency and the nation.”
3. Cantwell Was Involved in a Walmart Parking Lot Dispute Where Guns Were Out the Day Before the Charlottesville Rally
On the day before the Charlottesville rally, Cantwell was involved in a Walmart parking lot dispute where guns were drawn. NBC29 reported that the Albemarle County Police Department was investigating the incident, which happened at around 12:20 p.m. on August 11.
Police responded to a call that customers were worried about a group of people pointing guns in the parking lot. Cantwell, who was originally scheduled to speak at the Charlottesville rally, was at the scene. No one was arrested, since Cantwell and his group left without a fight.
“They were carrying weapons. Open carry, which is legal in Virginia with the weapon not concealed. They all checked out OK where they could carry a weapon,” Albemarle County Police Captain Tim Aylor told NBC29.
Cantwell has mentioned Walmart in the past on his website. In December 2013, he wrote about Kristopher Oswald, the Michigan employee fired by Walmat after helping a woman in a parking lot altercation in October 2013, under the headline “Walmart is promoting violence.”
In his interview with the Sentinel Source, Cantwell said his speech would have pushed for more unity in the alt-right movement.
4. Cantwell Ran for Congress in 2009 as a Libertarian, but a DWI Derailed His Campaign
Cantwell was featured by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that classifies hate groups. He told the site’s Hatewatch that he grew up in Stony Brook, New York on Long Island. He said his father was an air traffic controller who was fired by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 during layoffs. While his father struggled to find work throughout Cantwell’s teen years, he began running with “a bunch of rich assholes” at school, as he said.
When he was 19 years old, he pleaded guilty to charges of criminal possession of stolen property, possession of a weapon and driving while intoxicated. He spent four months in jail.
“I was involved in so much bullshit when I was a teenager, honestly, that like what I got caught for was the least of the shit I did,” Cantwell told Hatewatch.
In 2009, Cantwell tried his hand at politics. He ran as a Libertarian for Congress, but he had another DWI. Facing a possible felony charge, his campaign fell apart and he didn’t even make it on the ballot. He reached a plea deal in the DWI case and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. He told Hatewatch he was released after 28 days.
“As a member of the Libertarian Party, I was encouraged to run for political office,” Cantwell wrote in 2014. “I accepted this challenge, and in 2010 I ran as a Libertarian for the US House of Representatives in New York’s first congressional district. This endeavor taught me the lesson that all libertarians must at some point learn. That the institution of government, is so incredibly corrupt and dishonest, that no honest human being can simultaneously participate in it and maintain their integrity.”
In 2014, he delivered a speech to the Libertarian Party convention for Suffolk and Nassau Counties called “How The Libertarian Party Saved My Life,” in which he described his struggles with alcohol.
“I was just one alcoholic, on the verge of homelessness, facing trial for a felony. I was hardly capable of starting a revolution,” he said. “I had decided that I was going to be one of those guys, like Jerad Miller. I was just going to go out blasting and take as many of them with me as I could. But on some level I kind of knew that even this wouldn’t start the revolution. I was ready to die, I still am today, but I wanted it to be sort of meaningful, right?”
Cantwell later alienated himself from the Libertarian Party by advocating for violence.
5. Cantwell Was Featured in a 2014 ‘Colbert Report’ as a Member of the ‘Free Keene Squad’
The Vice report wasn’t the first time Cantwell, who now lives in Keene, New Hampshire, was featured on national television. In 2014, he was in a “Difference Makers” story on Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report. At the time, he was a member of a grouo the hist called the “Free Keene Squad.”
The segment featured Cantwell and two other men and their practice of “Robin Hood-ing.” They were seen saving people from paying parking tickets by paying the parking meters when people forget to. They also harassed the meter attendants. Cantwell didn’t get much screen time in the clip, but he did tell Colbert’s crew, “I find that when I carry a gun, people are very unlikely to hit me.”
Cantwell has been at the center of other Keene controversies. For example, in May 2015, he sparked local concern by filming people he saw talking among themselves. The people asked him to stop filming, but he refused, claiming he was filming to prevent anyone from getting hurt. They charged at him, and he pulled his gun. NH1 reported that police arrived to calm down the situation and no one was hurt.
Cantwell has supported overthrowing the U.S. government and told the Southern Poverty Law Center that his goal is to “normalize racism.” There is also a 2014 essay on his website called “Violently Overthrow the Government.”
“I’m going to make a commercial enterprise out of saying things that people want to make illegal,” he told the Southern Poverty Law Center. “I’m going to make a whole f***ing bunch of money doing it. Anybody who gets in my way is going to find themselves in a very long list of people who regretted underestimating me.”