Cole White, a former employee of the Berkeley restaurant Top Dog, may have travelled all the way to Charlottesville, Virginia to attend a “Unite the Right Rally” protesting the removal of a confederate statue — but he’s not some kind of white supremacist, he declared in an online statement.
White was identified via a photo on Twitter as an attendee of the rally, where one counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed last weekend. He resigned from Top Dog after the business fielded a flood of complaints about his appearance at the event, where there were actually a “comparatively small number” of real white supremacists, he claims.
“After having witnessed first hand the violent attempts made by far left groups to disrupt what would otherwise be peaceful conservative gatherings in recent months, I knew Charlottesville would be a notable event,” White writes to explain his attendance. This spring, he reportedly attended far-right protests in Berkeley.
Here’s his full statement:
I attended the Unite the Right rally because it was being reported as the biggest right-leaning event of the year with a large number of people expected to be present. After having witnessed first hand the violent attempts made by far left groups to disrupt what would otherwise be peaceful conservative gatherings in recent months, I knew Charlottesville would be a notable event. It was the infamous salutes, chants and actions that have widely represented this event to the public as a white nationalist rally, despite the comparatively small number of individuals behind them, and for this reason, I believe many participants and attendees are being unjustly targeted and demonized. I want to make it clear that I am not a white supremacist, nor was I ever. Those people with such beliefs were obviously present, assuming that those were the beliefs of the entire crowd is uninformed and irresponsible due to the fact that many people attended for the same reason as I did, which was to meet other conservative leaning individuals and to stand for freedom of speech. My portrayal over social and the mainstream media has been inaccurate, biased and completely unjustified.
Cole White, from California -- allegedly works at Top Dog restaurant in Berkeley pic.twitter.com/gxPvwQtAPw— Yes, You're Racist (@YesYoureRacist) August 12, 2017
Top Dog, which opened in 1966, is far from ideologically neutral. Owner Dick Riemann is an outspoken libertarian. Signs displayed at his establishment, which is mostly frequented by college students in need a late night bite, declare that “There's no government like no government." In the ’90s, Riemann told SF Weekly that Berkeley was “openly socialistic” but most people ignored his libertarian signs. “They still get hungry.”
The hot dog restaurant even posts articles from the Ludwig von Mises Institute on its website, a libertarian Alabama nonprofit that has published the work of some writers who praise the Confederacy according to the New York Times. Just this morning Top Dog ran an article that claims “Today, Anglo-Saxons are taught to hate themselves,” and calls for the privatization of all monuments as a solution to current battles over confederate statues.