Just days ago, alt-right white supremacists incited a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that culminated in three deaths and dozens of people injured. One of the white supremacists who led the charge in Charlottesville was a student at the University of Nevada Reno (UNR). How did the hate hit home, and what can we do about it?
The white supremacist next door
Peter Cvjetanovic didn’t just “come out of nowhere”. He was raised in Northern Nevada. He graduated from North Valleys High School in Reno. He attends UNR. He actually came from here.
Cvjetanovic has affiliated with white supremacist groups, such as Identity Europa. He now wants us to believe he’s “not a racist”, even while he continues to advocate for monuments dedicated to racism. When Cvjetanovic said, “I will defend tooth and nail my views as a white nationalist,” he basically admitted he’s a racist.
This was not an “isolated incident”.
It’s much easier to think that Peter Cvjetanovic developed his extremist views in some sort of vacuum. But in reality, he’s just the latest example of a metastasizing network of hate.
In May 2017, Black Lives Matter activists were attacked on the Las Vegas Strip while protesting officer-involved shootings. In June 2014, two Las Vegas Metro Police Officers were assassinated by sovereign citizens who had come to Nevada to participate in Cliven Bundy’s “range war”. In 2013, Andrew Anglin launched neo-Nazi online hub The Daily Stormer here in Nevada.
This is just some of the recent history of hate in our state. We must not forget that hate groups have been operating here long before Peter Cvjetanovic became part of the national zeitgeist.
What can we do about this?
This appalling act of domestic terrorism, and the Nevadan who chose to participate in it, doesn’t negate the progress we’ve seen in this state. Civil rights have advanced on a number of fronts since the bad old days of Nevada being referred to as the “Mississippi of the West”. Rather, this serves as a reminder that while Nevada has progressed on civil rights, there’s still much further for us to go.
We don’t have all the answers, but that shouldn’t stop us from asking the necessary questions. We don’t just need to ask how Peter Cvjetanovic became a part of the white supremacist assault on Charlottesville, but we must also ask ourselves why this larger network of hate has been operating right under our noses. We may never be able to remove hate from everyone’s heart, but that shouldn’t stop us from combating the hate that’s provoked this kind of violence.
Cover photo by Alec Perkins, licensed under Creative Commons, and made available through Wikimedia.