The 20-year-old student says he "cares for all people."
Saturday’s “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville left three people dead and several injured in stand-off between protesters and counter-protestors.
One photo emerged from the event and has since become the touchstone for the rally, and that is of Peter Cvjetanovic, 20, from Reno, Nevada.
Cvjetanovic attends The University of Nevada, Reno and even though his face has been made the poster child of the assembly, he says he’s being misrepresented.
In an interview for Channel 2 News he explains why he traveled to Virginia for the march which was organized in opposition to the removal of a monument to Confederate leader Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park.
“I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture," he said. “It is not perfect; there are flaws to it, of course. However, I do believe that the replacement of the statue will be the slow replacement of white heritage within the United States and the people who fought and defended and built their homeland. Robert E Lee is a great example of that. He wasn’t a perfect man, but I want to honor and respect what he stood for during his time.”
His face filled with anger and conviction, the photo of him amid torches and supporters has been circulating the internet identifying him as a racist.
“I did not expect the photo to be shared as much as it was. I understand the photo has a very negative connotation. But I hope that the people sharing the photo are willing to listen that I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo.”
Cvjetanovic who identifies himself as a white nationalist, says he embraces everyone.
“As a white nationalist, I care for all people. We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture. White nationalists aren’t all hateful; we just want to preserve what we have.”
Word quickly got out about Cvjetanovic’s participation when the Twitter account “Yes, You’re Racist” outed him and contacted his school.
The University of Nevada, Reno president Marc Johnson responded with a release saying the organization does not condone racism or white supremacy which brought into question whether he should be banished from the school.
Cvjetanovic thinks that’s unfair since he was only invoking his constitutional rights.
"I do not think they have the right to expel me from a public university. I went to a legal political rally to express my freedom of speech. I committed no acts of violence, and dispersed when told that the rally had become illegal. Therefore I did nothing illegal at that rally. I am allowed to express my political beliefs and if UNR does expel me, then it is a clear violation of my first amendment."
Another picture surfaced of Cvjetanovic and Nevada Senator Dean Heller who quickly denied knowing the young man, “I don't know this person & condemn the outrageous racism, hatred and violence. It's unacceptable & shameful. No room for it in this country,” he said on Twitter.