When white nationalist Richard Spencer attempted to deliver a speech at the University of Florida in Gainesville on Thursday, he was met with a massive protest that refused to let his hateful rhetoric be heard.
Students chanted, "GO HOME SPENCER" and "SAY IT LOUD, SAY IT CLEAR, NAZIS ARE NOT WELCOME HERE" in an attempt to drown out Spencer.
This "GO HOME SPENCER" chant is not letting up. He's asking over and over to be able to speak. Students raise fists… https://t.co/Ch8JjEDWQ5— Claire McNeill (@Claire McNeill)1508438973.0
They're still going. Now it's SAY IT LOUD SAY IT CLEAR NAZIS ARE NOT WELCOME HERE #SpencerAtUF https://t.co/pNKd4QyaJV— Christopher Mathias (@Christopher Mathias)1508439141.0
Some instances of violence still managed to break out between protesters and Spencer's supporters, particularly when one man wearing a shirt covered in swastikas was punched in the face.
Getty images shared the moment of impact on Twitter:
A man wearing swastikas is punched at a protest against white nationalist #RichardSpencer https://t.co/NQx2rLelNW… https://t.co/TPcUoguQo9— Getty Images News (@Getty Images News)1508443379.0
The punch was also caught on video:
Protesters are punching, spitting at this man who has swastikas on his shirt. #spenceratUF https://t.co/SuK0xFfixY— Michael Williams (@Michael Williams)1508441701.0
Spencer himself has been known to take a punch or two to the face in the past as well.
Most notably, Spencer took a hard punch to the face earlier this year during a Trump inauguration protest in a video that quickly went viral:
Richard Spencer got punched in the face during the protests at Trump's #inauguration https://t.co/oQAwtbtEeT— Gender🚁Professecs (@Gender🚁Professecs)1484953412.0
But on Thursday, one protester decided to try a different tactic: hugging.
Aaron Courtney, a high school football coach, approached Randy Furniss, the man wearing the swastika t-shirt who had been punched earlier, and grappled him into a bear hug, asking, "Why don't you like me, dog? What is it? What is it?"
The moment was caught on video:
A nazi and a black man.....America 2017 #SpencerAtUF https://t.co/sSaG36EuOr— Politics 4 Dummies (@Politics 4 Dummies)1508442259.0
At first, Furniss ignored the question, Courtney told the New York Daily News, but that didn't stop him from trying.
"I had the opportunity to talk to someone who hates my guts and I wanted to know why," Courtney said. "During our conversation, I asked him, ‘Why do you hate me? What is it about me? Is it my skin color? My history? My dreadlocks?’"
But then came the moment that Courtney was hoping for.
"I reached over and the third time, he wrapped his arms around me, and I heard God whisper in my ear, ‘You changed his life,’" Courtney said.
"Why do you hate me?" he asked once more.
"I don't know," Furniss finally responded.
Twitter had mixed feelings about the encounter:
@xx_Swagga @Politics4dum no it's not beautiful for black men to beg to be liked, it makes him look like he needs ac… https://t.co/yJwATXoOjt— Christina Merriweath (@Christina Merriweath)1508522160.0
@xx_Swagga @ChristNme @Politics4dum Absolutely! The only way to conquer all of this is together. https://t.co/HC4cBMTtPk— GypsyLy (@GypsyLy)1508534412.0
@pondspoint @Politics4dum people don't have to like nobody they don't want to like but respect is everything. I hate the begging— Renee (@Renee)1508470811.0
@Politics4dum Hugs not hate.— Free Hugs Project (@Free Hugs Project)1508512022.0
@Politics4dum This Brother is the coolest guy ever ! I love you man ! #BLM— EllenGio🏈 (@EllenGio🏈)1508463178.0
Regardless, it was a risky move that may or may not have paid off. But anything that gets people to think about their ingrained prejudice is a good start.
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