White Nationalist Richard Spencer held a rally at The University of Florida on Thursday (October 19), and suffice to say he was met with plenty of opposition.
The event was just three months after the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August that killed one and injured dozens more.
Perhaps a silver-lining (if there could ever be one from rallies like this) presented itself when protesters clashed with supporters. 31-year-old Aaron Courtney, a high school football coach in the city, saw neo-Nazi Randy Furniss being surrounded by protesters who pushed, spat and screamed at him.
According to the New York Daily News, Courtney wasn’t even familiar with who Richard Spencer was prior to the event, but came out to protest after finding out what it was all about. When he was about to leave, he noticed Furniss and decided to do something other than criticise him.
Video went viral of Courtney hugging Furness while asking him, "Why don’t you like me, dog?" According to Courtney, he actually wanted to know why the man hated him before they even had the opportunity to meet.
"I had the opportunity to talk to someone who hates my guts and I wanted to know why. 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?’" he told the newspaper. Courtney kept trying to ask the man after getting no response.
"Something in me said, ‘You know what? He just needs love. Maybe he never met an African-American like this," he said. "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 then asked one final time, “Why do you hate me?”
According to Courtney, Furniss’ response was, “I don’t know.”
"I believe that was his sincere answer. He really doesn’t know," he adds.
Furniss ended up taking a picture with Courtney’s friend before he was taken away by police. The whole event, Courtney says, was an example of how dialogue can dismantle hate.
"I honestly feel that was a step in the right direction,” he concluded. “For him to take a picture with a guy that he hated when he woke up this morning."
(Photo: Politics 4 Dummies)