A man who was filmed making anti-Semitic comments during a performance organised by the artist collective LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner was photographed marching with white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia last Friday night, according to the London-based artist Luke Turner.
Turner, who collaborates with Shia LaBeouf and Nastja Säde Rönkkö, posted a photograph of the man in question on Twitter with the caption: “ugh—the man with the moustache here is the same neo-Nazi that repeatedly targeted us @ #HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS in NY & ABQ with vile antisemitism”.
The man was pictured standing among far-right demonstrators wielding torches who marched to the University of Virginia campus on Friday night, some chanting Nazi-era slogans. The crowd rallied around a statue of Thomas Jefferson, who designed the university’s grounds, violently clashing with counter-protestors. The following day, a full-scale Unite the Right rally, organised in protest over the planned removal of a statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee, culminated when a man rammed his car into a crowd, killing a woman and injuring 19 others.
Turner identifies him as the same man who appears in a YouTube video taunting a member of the public taking part in He Will Not Divide Us, a project that began the day Donald Trump was inaugurated as president of the US. Visitors were invited to repeat the words “He will not divide us” into a live-stream camera mounted on a wall outside the Museum of the Moving Image in New York.
At one point, the man in question peers into the camera and says: “Hitler did nothing wrong.” He returns shortly after, uttering: “Adolf Hitler is a good man.”
According to LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner, the incident was not an isolated one. The installation was subjected to “constant disruption and hate speech by far-right extremists, and a lack of institutional support”, the artists said in a statement. A month after it started, the project was moved to the El Rey Theater in Albuquerque, where it was again targeted by far-right protestors. A version of the work now resides at FACT (the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool, where it will run for the duration of Trump’s presidency.
"It is deeply saddening that it has taken the tragic events of the past weekend for the wider media to finally recognise these people for what they are: white supremacists and neo-Nazis," Turner tells The Art Newspaper. "These same groups have been targeting us as artists and those peacefully participating in our project with a constant barrage of racist, antisemitic, homophobic, transphobic and misogynist abuse."
Turner adds: "Now, more than ever, it is essential that artists and arts institutions do all they can to stand up to those that would wish to close down artistic expression in this way."
Trump came under fire for failing to immediately denounce the actions of the neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan who descended on Charlottesville, instead blaming “many sides” for the violence. In a bid to counter the backlash, the president appeared in a hastily arranged TV broadcast at the White House 48 hours later, decrying racism as “evil” and describing those “who cause violence in its name” as “criminals and thugs”. Yesterday, however, at a press conference at Trump Tower, he reverted to his original stance, blaming both sides.
UPDATE: The headline of this article was amended to include Shia LaBeouf's collaborators, Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner. The article was also updated to include comments from Turner.