Thousands gathered to protest in the streets Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, among them was 20 year-old Reno resident Peter Cvjetanovic.
Cvjetanovic is an undergraduate at the university studying history and political science.
He traveled to Charlottesville to march in the “Unite the Right” rally, a battle over Charlottesville’s ordered removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.
“I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture," Cvjetanovic told Channel 2 News on Sunday. “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.”
Photos of Cvjetanovic protesting circulated on social media, denouncing Cvjetanovic 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.”
However, Cvjetanovic, a self-proclaimed white nationalist, defends his beliefs.
"It was on the front page of The Guardian and my heart sank."
The white nationalist, born and raised in Reno, says he was letting some of his anger out during a rally in Virginia when the picture was taken but now he asks himself why.
"I give no excuses for that photograph. That is clearly me…It was kind of a moment-type thing. The torches were lit and there was ANTIFA there. There was lots of cameras and that emotion, it was really starting to build up."
Cvjetanovic says he went to the rally partly to protest the removal of a statue of Lee.
"I think that statue remaining would be the best way to remember their history, the good and the bad."
He's says he's had several death threats since the protest.
He admits, walking shoulder-to-shoulder with Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and other white Supremist groups reflects on him -- but says he doesn't identify with them.
"We do not accept national socialism. We do not accept fascism. We do not accept Klansmen. We are truly Identitarian. That symbol is not a symbol of racism."
And while you might associate pro-white with racism he says they're two different things.
"I hope people acknowledge that being a party to the alternative right does not make me an evil Nazi, and that being pro-white right now is dangerous, and being pro-white doesn't mean I'm anti-anyone else."
Cvjetanovich says his trip to Virginia was kind of a test-run in the alt-right.
He says he didn't join until about a month ago and wanted to hear different people speak.
“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.”
The University of Nevada, Reno president Marc Johnson released a statement acknowledging that one of the marchers photographed was a University of Nevada, Reno student. They didn't comment on him directly but wrote in part, "Racism and white supremacist movements have a corrosive effect on our society. These movements do not represent our values as a university. We denounce any movement that targets individuals due to the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, political beliefs, sexual orientation, ability/disability, or whether they were born in our country." You can read the full statement at the bottom of this story.
A petition is circulating on Change.Org calling for Cvjetanovic's firing and expulsion from the university.
At a press conference, university officials said that they will not fire or expel Cvjetanovic, saying they do not agree with him but he has a First Amendment right to assemble and free speech. They also say Cvjetanovic has a clean record with the university after three years. (Read President Johnson's statement below)
As classes at UNR began on Monday, Cvjetanovic decided to resign from his on-campus job as a driver for the university's escort service. "I did not want to pick at the scab of Charlottesville," Cvjetanovic tells us, "I want peace at UNR and I believe my leaving is a good step to ensure that. I just want to not be expelled and graduate in May.” Cvjetanovic says that his resignation was his own decision and the university sis not pressure him to leave.
A Twitter account, "Yes You're Racist" posted a photograph of Cvjetanovic with Senator Dean Heller.. Later Senator Heller responded on Twitter saying, "I don't know this person & condemn the outrageous racism, hatred and violence. It's unacceptable & shameful. No room for it in this country.
The Charlottesville protests left 3 people dead and several injured, click here for the full details.