White nationalist Christopher Cantwell surrenders to police

Man gained notoriety for behaviour in ‘Vice’ documentary about Charlottesville violence

Christopher Cantwell, in the Vice News documentary about the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photograph: Vice News screengrab

Christopher Cantwell, in the Vice News documentary about the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photograph: Vice News screengrab


A white nationalist whose behaviour at violent gatherings this month in Charlottesville, Virginia, brought him notoriety after he was featured in a widely viewed documentary, has surrendered to authorities in Virginia days after warrants went out for his arrest.

Earlier this week, the University of Virginia Police Department said the charges against the man, Christopher Cantwell (36), included two felony counts of illegal use of tear gas and one count of malicious bodily injury by means of a caustic substance.

The police said the warrants stemmed from a torch-lit march on university grounds on the night of August 11th; the demonstration preceded a large rally the next day in which a 32-year-old woman was killed after a someone drove into a crowd.

In a statement released late on Wednesday, the university police said they had been notified late that afternoon that Cantwell had turned himself in to the Lynchburg Police Department in Virginia. The brief statement did not say when Cantwell turned himself in.

He was being held at the Blue Ridge regional jail in Lynchburg pending transport to Charlottesville, the university police said. In interviews last week, Cantwell said he would surrender if necessary.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said it had reached him by phone Wednesday afternoon and quoted him as saying he was “in the process” of turning himself in to the police.

Cantwell, a self-described white nationalist, emerged as a high-profile activist for the so-called alt-right after being featured in a Vice News documentary that has been viewed more than 44 million times since it was broadcast August 14th. In it, Cantwell is shown calling for an “ethno-state” and saying that the death of the 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was justified.

“I think that a lot more people are going to die before we’re done here,” he added.

Cantwell posted a video on August 12th in which he choked back tears and was widely mocked by his critics for appearing scared of being arrested. In interviews last week, Cantwell said he believed that any charges he would face would be connected to an episode he said was photographed by a journalist that showed him “pepper-spraying a guy straight in his face as he’s coming toward me”.

“I thought that spraying that guy was the least damaging thing I could do,” he said. “In my left hand I had a flashlight. My other option, other than the pepper spray, was to break this guy’s teeth. Okay? And I didn’t want to do that. I just wanted him to not hurt me.”

“I don’t think I did anything wrong,’’ he said, “and I’m looking forward to my day in court.”

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