A New York man was the target of fliers branding him a Nazi after he was identified from a photograph taken at Friday's Charlottesville rally protesting the removal of a Confederate statue -- but the man said he only went to the demonstration to preserve history, and does not believe in hate.
Jarrod Kuhn, 21, of Honeoye Falls, said he was at the "Unite the Right" rally at the University of Virginia on Friday night and was photographed carrying a lit Tiki torch, USA Today reported. The photo made its way to the Internet where social media users identified Kuhn and attempted to shame him publicly.
"I went down to Charlottesville to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue," Kuhn said. "It’s a piece of history, and I felt really strongly that it shouldn’t be erased. I identify with the right wing. I’m not a national socialist; I didn’t go down there with any fascist groups."
Fliers that read “No Nazis in our neighborhood” and contained the photo with Kuhn’s name and address listed were spread around his community, WHEC reported. A post with the photo was also shared on Facebook more than 1,000 times. The Eastside Antifascists, a group based in Rochester, N.Y., allegedly created the post. The group said its goal is to “work to monitor and fight cases of local fascism,” according to USA Today.
Kuhn said he also initially attended Saturday’s rally -- which eventually turned deadly -- but left less than an hour in after he was hit on the back with a brick and splattered with paint. He also said he was not in the area at the time when Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a car allegedly driven by a white supremacist rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Kuhn said he received death threats and some people even came to his residence after the Facebook post and poster identified him as a rally participant. Honeoye Falls Mayor Richard Milne wrote a post on Facebook condemning the fliers, and called targeting Kuhn “illegal.” The fliers and the Facebook post were taken down soon after.
"I would do the same thing if it was a white supremacist posting," Milne said. "We didn’t feel it was appropriate, and we took them down and contacted the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. No matter what anybody’s personal feelings are, it was targeting an individual and a family and we took those down."
Milne added: "I think this individual has made some bad choices if he was taking part in those marches. Whether it’s a small village or a large village, if people see things like that it’s hurtful and does damage. At the same time, there are repercussions for actions."
Stephanie Kuhn, Jarrod’s mother, told USA Today she was frustrated by how quickly people jumped to criticize her son.
"We are living in a society where the loudest voices love to criticize, and that’s part of our western practice," Stephanie Kuhn said. "In the post that the Eastside Antifascist group made, they said that Jarrod has been violent toward LGBT communities. Where does that come from? Where is the proof? But one picture is taken and everyone is so quick to believe."
Kuhn said her son has participated in a Sharia Law protest as well and has never been afraid to voice his political beliefs, but he does not believe in violence.
"Yet harm, malice and violence is where we spend so much of our energy,” Kuhn said. “We need to stop perpetuating all of that agitation. My son's intention in going was to preserve the statue. He was so excited. My son has always loved politics."
Jarrod Kuhn said he has no interest in promoting hate, but said he believed both sides had bad actors on Saturday.
"I think there was violence on both sides, but I know that the left digressed. We were there, we had a permit, they did not," Kuhn said. "I’m not a hateful person. I’ve never been a problem in this community, I’ve never pushed my beliefs on to anyone, and now people feel the need to make me out to be a horrible person, some of which don’t even know me.
"I’ve done things here, I’ve contributed, I’ve helped out. I’m not what they're making me out to be."