Richard Spencer is the American editor of altright.com and is credited with leading the Alt Right movement to what it is today.
He gained international media attention during a National Policy Institute speech in which he raised a glass of whisky to the crowd and exclaimed, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail Victory!”
The video showed audience members give the Nazi salute as a response to his closing statements, which drew widespread criticism.
Spencer is often referred to as a white supremacist, racist, or a Neo-Nazi but in an interview with WUVA News, he denied those labels, insisting that his passion for his “European identity” is no different than that of other races and how they too have strong cultural identities.
He argues that he is an “identitarian” and when asked what makes his aspirations different from that of a white supremacist, Spencer said that he does not want to rule over other races.
“An identitarian has the starting question of ‘who are we?’ and that is a very difficult question… I think about foreign policy and economics by asking that question,” he stated.
“We also have these much bigger identities, I’m a part of the white race, I do identify with Europe. I care about Europe more than I care about other places… I feel like I have an invested interest in the future of Germans or French people in a way that I don’t have a truly passionate investment in, say, the Chinese,” Spencer continued.
“I don’t dislike them but their destiny does not have the same importance to me as the destiny of European people. That is identitarianism. It is local and personal but it is also global,” he elaborated.
Richard Spencer is a UVa alum, earning a degree in English Literature in 2001.
Members of the UVa community and beyond have called for Spencer’s degree to be revoked, arguing that he now stands as a representation of hateful values that do not align with those that UVa wishes to uphold. He says that his time at UVa heavily influenced who he is today. Not in terms of political ideology but rather, crediting his courses with helping him master the art of questioning.
“I think it’s very sad because I graduated with high distinction, actually, and I did everything required of me and I’ve also not broken any laws,” Spencer responded.
“They are wanting to ostracize me from the alumni community for things that I think and say.”
He went on to say, “I’ll admit it is a bit painful because I am proud of attending the University of Virginia and I think they should be proud of me, I mean, I am a public figure…They in a way can’t take away my degree, even if they do in some official capacity. Everyone knows I attended UVa, everyone knows I was influenced by my time there.”
When asked if there were any specific experiences at UVa that influenced his views he replied: “There was no course or professor that changed my views in this way… the whole experience was important, UVa was definitely a coming of age experience… I was not interested in politics, I was much more interested in theater and art.”
On August 11th and 12th, Spencer returned to Charlottesville with members of the Alt-Right. He was joined by affiliates of the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi’s, and other fascist groups to march against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, located in what is is now known as Emancipation Park.
Spencer went on to discuss why attending the Unite the Right rally was important to him.
“The confederate statues are just a symbol and in a way you can say they were just an excuse,” he admitted.”
“I do care about those statues and I think they’re worthy of being preserved. They’re a metaphor for white dispossession and that is why we care about them.”
The Unite the Right rally featured many controversial groups and while Spencer is adamant that the alt right is not racist, this people shared the event with groups that waved the Nazi flag and possessed other blatant symbolic displays of racism.
When WUVA News pointed this out to Spencer he stated: “I don’t think it’s a good idea at all to walk around with the nazi flag, I think people like that are misguided…it was a public gathering, anyone could come, no one was really turned away. I do think some people maybe have bad optics or they’re misguided in some way but on another level they are coming out to support the statue and to ultimately say ‘you will not replace us.'”
“As a people we are not going to be culturally dispossessed, morally dispossessed, and politically dispossessed. The basic idea of Unite the Right was still a very good thing,” Spencer remarked.
The events in Charlottesville quickly turned violent and deadly. Heather Heyer was struck by a car driven by James Fields as he drove through a crowd of counter-protestors. Fields had travelled from Ohio to attend the Unite the Right rally.
When asked about how he thinks the events in Charlottesville unfolded, he discussed the negligence of police and how he believed they allowed chaos to reign.
“I was absolutely shocked and appalled by the behavior of Mike Signer and Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the Chief of Police,” Spencer criticized.
He continued to explain that he believed chaos unfolded because the police forced him and other Unite the Right attendees out of McIntire Park and towards Market Street, where all of the counter-protesters were.
“I turned to the police officer and I said, ‘you know they’re going to kill us’ and he just looked at me with this kind of guilt ridden and dead eyed stare…I mean this very seriously, I think the police were trying to instigate chaos and if you want to describe what they did even more cynically you can even say that they wanted us to get killed or wanted us to kill others”, Spencer recalled.
He added: “The Heather Heyer situation was very sad, at the same time, one has to ask why was there chaos in downtown Charlottesville? They had months to plan for all of this… I think overall Charlottesville was a positive thing, we stood our ground.”
The UVa and Charlottesville community are left distraught and anxious after the tragic events, as Richard Spencer vowed to return to the city.
When questioned about whether or not the Alt Right had future plans to march in Charlottesville, he replied with a proud smile: “We’ll be back sooner than you might imagine.”
Four days after this interview, Richard Spencer returned to Charlottesville on the evening of October 7 for another gathering in Emancipation Park. He led a group of tiki torch wielding white nationalists as their chants of “You Will Not Replace Us!” once again echoed through the streets of downtown Charlottesville.