Christopher Cantwell’s hearing last Friday, well attended by protesters and his black-clad white supremacist allies alike, ended with his three charges dropping to one. He’s now facing one felony count of illegal use of tear gas and other gases, after he was accused of dousing multiple people with pepper spray in Charlottesville, Virginia during the August 11 tiki torch rally.
The presiding judge, William Barkley, dismissed charges of malicious illegal use of gas and unlawful injury by acid, saying so many people had pepper spray that night that some attacks could not be definitively attributed to Cantwell.
Cantwell got two fleeting moments in the public eye after August’s violent Unite the Right rally, during which three people died and dozens more were injured. First, he appeared in a widely seen piece from VICE where he outlined his nauseating ideas about race, and told reporter Elle Reeve that the counter protesters struck by the car driven by James Alex Fields were “stupid animals who don’t pay attention.” The tough-guy image he put on for VICE crumbled just a few days later, when he posted a tearful video sharing his anxiety about being wanted by police. The internet subsequently dubbed him the “Crying Nazi.”
Citing this humiliation and his intemperate conduct in the VICE video, some on the far right accused him of being an FBI plant or other subversive infiltrator. But many of his comrades in hate have stood by him. Since turning himself in on August 24, he has posted regular updates to his podcast, Radical Agenda, often joined by fellow racists like The Right Stuff’s Mike “Enoch” Peinovich. Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer has shared links to some of those episodes, and editor Andrew Anglin has posted pleas for readers to donate to Cantwell’s legal defense. In October, David Duke hosted Cantwell on his radio show. Allies and supporters in the courtroom included Jason Kessler, the Charlottesville native and primary Unite the Right organizer with legal troubles of his own, and Elliott Kline aka Eli Mosley of Identity Evropa.
During the hearing, Cantwell testified, “I was hoping very much to avoid violence.” That claim directly contradicts his earlier declaration to VICE in Charlottesville, when he said he carries a pistol and goes to the gym in order to, “make myself more capable of violence.”
His attorney, Elmer Woodward, drew laughter for some of his courtroom antics. When witness Kristopher Goad testified that he was unable to leave the park because he was, “surrounded 360 degrees by hundreds of people,” Woodward replied, “You could have said excuse me, couldn’t you?”
Later, he remarked that the cause of victims’ injuries could have been smoke from the tiki torches, instead of chemicals from Cantwell’s can of pepper spray.
After the hearing, Cantwell was still in jail. It’s likely he will seek bond again prior to when the charge comes before the grand jury, but he’ll have to hope the courts have had a major change of heart. Back in August, his $25,000 bond was denied after the judge agreed with prosecutors, who deemed him a flight risk and a risk to public safety.