Area teen rallied in Charlottesville, got death threats, now planning move to 'solidly red' Alabama

A former Student Council president at Lyons Township High School who attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was back in La Grange Park this week, discussing his political views, his experience at the event and his departure from school.

Nicholas J. Fuentes, 18, of La Grange Park, said he attended the rally, which was organized by various groups tied to white nationalism, to protest. The rally was shut down after clashes between white nationalists, Nazis and counter-protesters turned violent. One woman was killed and 19 injured when a driver whom police say had ties to white supremacists barreled into counter-protesters.

Fuentes said Thursday he is not a racist and does not support violence.

Fuentes garnered media attention in the past year for his support of Donald Trump and his YouTube videos, "America First with Nick Fuentes," in which he espoused his views about the failure of multiculturalism, immigration and his anger about what he said has been the marginalization of white people.

In an April 19 show, he argued the First Amendment was not written for Muslims or immigrants. He also suggested that some members of the media should be expelled from the country or hanged for what he deemed was intentional false reporting.

On the day of the rally, Fuentes wrote on Facebook that "a tidal wave of white identity is coming."

Fuentes said his posts on Facebook about his views have brought him several threats via social media and email — even before he attended the rally. More threats followed after the rally, he said.

"It was a lot of hate in general," Fuentes said.

That contributed to his decision to leave Boston University, which he said he'd been considering because he believes it is too liberal a campus.

In another, later Facebook post, he complained that talking about white pride brings criticism and suggestions you're an apologist for Adolf Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan.

"They call me a hater and a bigot," he said of the backlash he's received. "But it's ironic because they are the ones who have a visceral hatred of someone they've never met."

Fuentes' splash onto the national media scene began around the 2016 election, when, wearing a red cap emblazoned with "Make America Great Again," he was highlighted in a video about how Boston University students planned to vote and he proclaimed his support for the election of Donald J. Trump. He was also profiled in March in a Boston Globe article about Trump supporters.

Fuentes said the atmosphere at the Charlottesville rally was chaotic. He said he saw counter-protesters armed with aluminum bats, bottles of feces and urine and cement. Fuentes says he was not armed.

Video of the protests show many Unite the Right marchers were carrying shields, sticks and some brandished rifles. Some carried Nazi and white supremacy propaganda and shouted anti-Semitic taunts. Fuentes said he rejects Nazism and condemns the act of the man who drove into the crowd, but believes the violence from counter-protesters spurred violence in return.

"I don't think it's a surprise that you're going to get a lunatic doing something like that," he said.

He said he decided not to return to Boston University because of the threats he has received and because he wasn't happy with other aspects of the school such as the urban campus and the program of study.

He said he plans to take the fall semester off and then to go to Auburn University in Alabama. Auburn officials refused to comment on or confirm his enrollment, citing student privacy rights.

"I really like the architecture and some of the programs there," Fuentes said. "I think I will happy there and I will be safe. It's solidly red territory."

At Lyons Township High School, Fuentes also was active in the speech team and Model UN. He was one of four LT students invited to greet Gov. Bruce Rauner on a visit to the high school in May 2016, and escort the governor into the building. The governor came as part of a tour of schools to talk about education funding.

Bill Allan, supervisor of television services at Lyons Township High School, said Fuentes had a TV show that aired five or six times at the school.

He said Fuentes "was a lot more charismatic and articulate than most high school students."

Fuentes visited the school last year and appeared as a guest on another student's show, and Allen noticed an apparent change in Fuentes' views.

"I think the biggest change was he went from conservative values to very deep to the right," he said. "None of the stuff he produced (at LT) was even close to the level he's at now."

Allan said he doesn't agree with Fuentes' political views or his decision to attend the Charlottesville rally, but he also doesn't think Fuentes should receive threats because of it.

"Just because a guy chooses to attend an unfortunate and pathetic event doesn't mean he should receive death threats," he said.

He said Fuentes should know that some of his remarks could generate a backlash.

"When you pour gas on the fire, you should know you could get burnt," he said.

He speculated that Fuentes may seek to outrage because he is trying to fuel a social media presence.

"It was the backlash at BU that propelled his social media presence," Allan said.

Fuentes said he doesn't regret standing up for his views.

"I think there is value in defending what is true and what happened over the weekend," he said.

amannion@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @triblocalam

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