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Man outing Charlottesville white supremacists on Twitter ‘not going away’

White nationalist groups march with torches through the

White nationalist groups march with torches through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Va., Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. Photo Credit: AP

RALEIGH, N.C. (TCA) - The Raleigh man behind the viral Twitter account @YesYoureRacist said on Monday that since publishing photos of torch-carrying white supremacist protesters Saturday in Charlottesville, he has received remarkable support — but also death threats.

Logan Smith, who works as the communications director for Progress NC Action, says the account had about 65,000 followers Saturday morning. On Monday afternoon, it had topped 307,000 and was climbing.

“I have been receiving death threats for the past 20 hours or so,” Smith, 30, said in a phone interview. “They have been threatening my family, too. The overall response of course has been 99 percent positive, but there’s always that extremely small but extremely loud and extremely angry minority that bites back.”

Smith said the threats seem to come from followers of the white supremacist website Stormfront, from neo-Nazis and from alt-right groups.

“They’re mostly anonymous Twitter accounts with three followers that only tweet nonstop hate,” he said. “But there’s a lot of them — and they are mad.”

In the past, Smith’s account has mostly just retweeted people making statements Logan found to be racist. This weekend’s events in Charlottesville mark the first time he said he has used photos to call out people.

“I just started seeing all these photos from the torch march Friday night and the riots on Saturday and it was just so disturbing,” he said. “These photos from the torch march — it was exactly what you see in photos from 1930s Germany. But this is not happening in history books or some faraway country — it’s here, it’s now.

“And these people aren’t afraid anymore. They’re not hiding behind their hoods like they did before the civil rights era. They are out and proud. I think if they are so proud of their beliefs and proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with neo-Nazis and KKK members and white supremacists of all stripes, then I think their communities need to know who they are. They’re not random faces in the crowd, they’re your neighbors, they’re your co-worker, they’re the people you pass in the grocery store.”

The attention from @YesYoureRacist got one man disowned by his family and another man is no longer employed at a hot dog restaurant in California.

“I’m not trying to get anybody fired,” Smith said. “I’m not contacting anybody’s employers. But you know, if someone goes to a white supremacists’ rally and their employer sees them, then that’s their prerogative — and that’s something they probably should have thought about.”

HOW IT STARTED

Smith started the @YesYoureRacist Twitter account in October 2012, partly inspired by racism directed at then-President Barack Obama. But Smith said mostly he was inspired by Twitter searches he did for random phrases that he actually was hoping no one would be tweeting, like “who is Neil Armstrong” after the iconic astronaut died.

It was when he searched for the phrase “I’m not racist but” that Smith said he was moved to act.

“I was just overwhelmed by the amount of casual, obvious racism,” Smith said. “People saying stuff like, ‘I’m not racist but I don’t think we should have a black president.’ How could you not think that’s racist? It was so astounding to me that I thought I just have to make a project on this.”

Smith, an East Tennessee native who attended the University of South Carolina, said he believes it’s important for everyone to call out racism.

“I’m a white man, and I think that, while you may not expect that to be the person behind an anti-racism Twitter account, I think everyone — especially white people — have a responsibility to stand up against bigotry wherever they encounter it. Otherwise, by remaining silent you are potentially complicit in that white supremacist system, which depends on silence in order to thrive.”

And even with the death threats, Smith said he is undaunted.

“Nobody likes to get death threats, but intimidation is how these people work,” he said. “It’s how they’ve worked from the days of the KKK burning crosses in peoples’ yards and in Nazi Germany. By giving in to their intimidation tactics, that’s how they win.

“I’m not going away.”

© 2017, The News & Observer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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