Candid Cantwell: An afternoon with the ‘Crying Nazi’

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Christopher Cantwell calls himself a political prisoner. Staff photo Christopher Cantwell calls himself a political prisoner. Staff photo

In a minuscule, stagnant holding room just feet away from a barely bigger solitary confinement cell where he’s been housed since he turned himself in to police August 23, “Crying Nazi” Christopher Cantwell, a self-proclaimed racist and alt-right radio shock jock, says he wishes he never came to Charlottesville.

Perhaps most notable for his appearance in VICE News Tonight’s segment on the events of August 11 and 12 called “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” Cantwell is also the host of right-wing radio show “Radical Agenda,” and was billed as a speaker for the Unite the Right rally.

Jailed and denied bond for three felony counts related to allegedly pepper spraying two people during an August 11 tiki-torch march on Grounds at the University of Virginia, Cantwell denies those claims and says the only person he pepper sprayed that weekend didn’t file charges. He says his status as a “political prisoner” hasn’t kept him from preaching his doctrine.

That’s right. Cantwell is “LIVE from Seg!,” as in segregated from the general prison population. And though he can’t measure his analytics from a jail cell, he expects that more than 10,000 people have been tuning in to each episode to hear him gab with buddies Jared Howe, Mike Enoch and Jason Kessler.

The latter might come as a surprise. Kessler, the local champion of western heritage who organized the deadly rally and lambasted victim Heather Heyer on Twitter afterward, has since been given the ax by a lot of the whites righters he invited to his highly anticipated melee that some have called the largest gathering of white supremacists in recent history.

“Jason is a guy who picks up the goddamn phone when I call him, which I cannot say for everybody else,” says Cantwell. “A lot of people don’t want to talk to me, either, and so they might be a little more vocal about severing ties with Jason, but I pay attention to who picks up the goddamn phone when I call them. Jason picks up the phone. Jason records the calls. Jason sends them to the guy who’s running my website, so Jason is helpful to me in that he insists on my voice being heard.”

That being said, Cantwell criticizes Kessler for organizing the rally here: “If I had known what Charlottesville was, I wouldn’t have come here. And I gotta think there’s something wrong with a person who fucking thinks this is a good place to do what he did.”

He continues, “This city is run by the goddamn Red Army…and the idea that we’re going to fucking pull this off is crazy and he should have known that.” Mayor Mike Signer did coin Charlottesville as the “capital of the resistance” last January, after all.

Cantwell currently resides in solitary confinement in the intake department of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, where alleged murderer James Alex Fields, who is accused of plowing into a crowd of counterprotesters with his Dodge Challenger at Unite the Right, killing one and injuring many, was a few cells over when the radio host first arrived. Fields has since been moved.

The guy who’s now looking at as much as 60 years in prison says, “you better believe I need a few bucks,” and has a couple of fundraisers linked to his website. Booted off the popular crowdfunding site GoFundMe, he has turned to alternative platform GOYFUNDME.

He’s faced harsh criticism for a remark in his interview with VICE’s Elle Reeve, where he said Fields’ actions that day, which many have called an act of domestic terrorism, were “more than justified.”

Now, wearing a black-and-white-striped jumpsuit and bright orange slip-on shoes, and sucking on a hard candy, he says he may have second thoughts about that statement. After the VICE documentary aired, Cantwell says he had a conversation with someone claiming to be an FBI agent, who told him Fields drove through two blocks of clear roads with no foot traffic, and that he could have turned his car away from the crime scene at any time instead of mowing down more than 20 people.

“That gives me a second to pause and say ‘what the hell was he doing there?’” Cantwell says. “What I saw was a video of his car surrounded by communist rioters who had just pepper sprayed me twice in as many days and hit his car with a baseball bat. I knew these people were dangerous. So when he’s in that position and they attack him and he has no idea what to do and he just hits the gas, from that information, that looks reasonable to me.”

But Cantwell insists he never wanted trouble when he came to Charlottesville toting three pistols and two assault rifles.

“We didn’t come down here to start a riot,” he says. “We didn’t come down here to kill nobody. And we had a permit. I was invited to speak by a demonstration that had a permit and was championed by the ACLU, and in return for my trouble, I got maced.”

He says the idea that the white nationalists came to town to start a race riot or to terrorize people is “complete nonsense,” and that they came to defend white rights.

“I think that we have civil rights like everybody else, and so when people say that we’re racists and terrorists for standing up for ourselves, our country and our history, well then do not act surprised when we get pissed off about that,” he says. And with hundreds of his comrades packing heat, he calls it “a miracle that only one person died.”

Cantwell was dubbed the “Crying Nazi” when he posted a tearful video of himself on the web before turning himself into police in Lynchburg. He says he’s not a fan of the title.

“Well, first of all, I’m not a Nazi,” he says. “I came down here because I think that I fucking have rights and that I don’t deserve my fucking race to be exterminated from the planet,” he says, and adds that not everyone who’s “skeptical of Jews” is a Nazi. “I came down here because I feel like my country is going to shit. I came down here because the rule of law is going out the window and you get prosecuted for felonies because people disagree with your politics in America. That’s worth crying about.”

Regardless, he says he has a lot of time on his hands and he’s been reading a copy of Mein Kampf sent courtesy of an anonymous friend—or foe.

When Cantwell was originally thrown in the hole, he said it was his personal request to stay in solitary confinement. But now that he’s been denied bail and jailed for longer than he expected, he’s been advised that “the guy who kills [him] becomes a celebrity,” so joining the general population would not be a good idea.

“I’m not particularly happy about it,” Cantwell says. “But, after all, I’m in here for a false accusation that stems from me defending myself. The last thing I need to do is get put into a cage full of fine, upstanding, young black gentlemen who decide they’re going to beat up the Nazi and then I gotta defend myself. And if I put someone in the fucking ICU, that’s probably going to come up in court.”

Cantwell is scheduled to appear November 9 with attorney Elmer Woodard in Albemarle County General District Court, where if it goes anything like his last appearance, Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tracci will try to use some of the inmate’s own comments to keep him locked up.

“Well, you know, I’m a shock jock. I offend people professionally,” Cantwell says. “If we’re going to talk about all the nasty things I said on the internet, we’re going to be here for a while.”

Corrected September 26 at 10am. The original version identified Jason Kessler as a Proud Boy. The Colorado Proud Boys reached out and said his only involvement was participating in a meet up and being disavowed.

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