A white nationalist from Keene is facing three felony charges in connection with violent demonstrations surrounding a rally in Charlottesville, Va., last week, according to University of Virginia police.
University police announced in a news release Tuesday that Christopher Cantwell is charged with two counts of illegal use of tear gas, phosgene and other gases and one count of malicious bodily injury by means of any caustic substance or agent or use of any explosive or fire.
Cantwell, an alt-right podcast host who espouses racist and anti-Semitic vitriol, has lived in Keene since 2012. He gained national attention after being featured heavily in a short Vice News documentary about the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally that appeared on HBO. Parts of the documentary also aired on CNN and MSNBC as part of those networks’ news broadcasts.
University of Virginia Police said Cantwell should turn himself in immediately to any police agency. As of Tuesday evening, he hadn’t been arrested.
His charges stem from events on the university’s campus during the evening of Friday, Aug. 11, according to the release.
On that night, Cantwell told The Sentinel last week, he used pepper spray on one person who he said tried to attack him, hit a man he said was in a pile of counterprotesters on top of a right-wing protester, and tackled a woman he said hit others with a baton.
He said he was eventually sprayed with Mace.
Cantwell said he engaged in violence after he and other white nationalist protesters, many holding tiki-torches, marched on the University of Virginia campus. When they arrived at a statue of Thomas Jefferson, Cantwell said the group was attacked by left-wing counterprotesters.
The next day, hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members clashed again with counter-protesters. In the bloodiest moment of the day, a car drove into a crowd, killing 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Heyer of Charlottesville and injuring 19 others.
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, was arrested and faces charges, including second-degree murder, in connection with the incident. Fields had expressed radical views in the past, according to acquaintances who recalled him yelling about Hitler or making racial slurs, The New York Times reported. In photographs, he also appears to be protesting with white supremacists in Charlottesville on Aug. 12.
Via email, Cantwell told The Sentinel he has been having difficulty finding legal representation. His first attorney quit almost immediately after taking his case, he said; now, he said, he does have legal representation, but declined to identify his lawyer.
Upon hearing about the arrest warrants that had been issued, Cantwell said in an email Tuesday: “The only comment I can give you for now is that I fully intend to comply with the law, it’s all just been so confusing since the authorities would rather leak conflicting information to media than communicate honestly with my attorney.”
The Associated Press reported that Cantwell said Tuesday he planned to turn himself in sometime in the next 24 hours.
On Aug. 17, The Boston Globe, citing officials from the Virginia Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, reported Cantwell had two outstanding warrants in connection with the rally, and was wanted on felony charges of illegal use of gases and injury by a caustic agent or explosive. The office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Sentinel.
On Monday, The New York Times reported that four warrants had been issued for Cantwell’s arrest, citing officials from the Virginia Commonwealth Attorney’s Albemarle County office in Charlottesville.