Virginia Jewish mayor hit with anti-Semitic abuse for decrying far-right rally
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Virginia Jewish mayor hit with anti-Semitic abuse for decrying far-right rally

Mike Signer targeted by racist trolls online after linking torch-carrying protesters at pro-Confederate march to the 'days of the KKK'

Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, Mike Signer, from an interview with NBC 29, published June 25, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube)
Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, Mike Signer, from an interview with NBC 29, published June 25, 2016. (screen capture: YouTube)

The Jewish mayor of a Virginia city became the target of online anti-Semitic and racist abuse after speaking out against white supremacist rallies held in Charlottesville over the weekend.

Mayor Mike Signer had condemned Saturday’s torch-carrying marchers protesting plans to remove a local monument of a Confederate general as appearing to hearken “back to the days of the KKK.”

“You’re seeing anti-Semitism in these crazy tweets I’m getting and you’re seeing a display of torches at night, which is reminiscent of the KKK,” Signer told Reuters in a phone interview Monday.

“They’re sort of a last gasp of the bigotry that this country has systematically overcome,” he said.

Among those at the Saturday night protests was Richard Spencer, a white nationalist who popularized the phrase “alt-right” and is a leading figure in a fringe movement that has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism.

“We will not be replaced from this park,” Spencer told the crowd at one of the two weekend rallies held in Charlottesville. “We will not be replaced from this world. Whites have a future. We have a future of power, of beauty, of expression,” he said.

On Saturday, Signer issued a statement saying Spencer and the other protests were either “profoundly ignorant” or intended to instill fear in minorities “in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK.”

“I want everyone to know this: We reject this intimidation,” Signer said in his statement. “We are a welcoming city, but such intolerance is not welcome here.”

“I smell Jew,” a user named “Great Patriot Trump” tweeted at Signer in response. “If so, you are going back to Israel. But you will not stay in power here. Not for long.”

Signer vowed he wouldn’t be intimidated by the wave of racist abuse, and pointed to US President Donald Trump as being responsible for the uptick in American anti-Semitism.

“Here is what this great country faces in this age of @realDonaldTrump-a sitting mayor subjected to anti-Semitism. I will not be intimidated,” he tweeted. “This garbage white supremacy won’t even be a footnote in our history.”

Spencer, an outspoken supporter of Trump, hosted a post-election conference in the nation’s capital last November that ended with audience members mimicking Nazi salutes after Spencer shouted, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” Spencer also has advocated for an “ethno-state” that would be a “safe space” for white people.

Trump during his campaign faced criticism over his failure to explicitly condemn white supremacist groups who rallied to support his candidacy during the 2016 race.

After his election, Trump publicly disavowed the alt-right movement, and condemned Spencer’s event.

The debate over Confederate symbols has swept through cities across the South since the 2015 massacre of nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church. The gunman was a self-avowed white supremacist.

The Charlottesville City Council voted last month to sell the Lee statue, but a judge has agreed to a temporary injunction that blocks Charlottesville from moving the statue for six months, The Daily Progress reported. The city also plans to rename Lee Park and another park named after another famed Confederate, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

AP contributed to this report.

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