Protester Aaron Courtney Hugs Nazi Outside Richard Spencer Event Asks ‘Why Do You Hate Me?’ https://t.co/nCN52JShQx Powerfully well done sir— Michael C. Khouw (@Michael_Khouw) October 20, 2017
A small but noticeable gesture is making headlines across the internet, and it involves one person’s actions outside of the venue where white supremacist Richard Spencer spoke in Gainesville, Florida, on Thursday.
The person didn’t engage in shouting or even violence. Instead, they chose a radical response to hatred: love.
Aaron Courtney, who had come to the University of Florida campus to protest Spencer’s presence there, noticed a neo-Nazi who admittedly was being treated poorly by other protesters. The man was being spat upon and even pushed around by a crowd surrounding him, reports the New York Daily News. At one point, he even received a punch to the jaw.
Rather than take part in the mob mentality of those who surrounded the neo-Nazi (later identified as a man named Randy Furniss), Courtney instead gave the man a hug.
“Why don’t you like me, dog,” he yelled over the crowd to Furniss, while stretching his arms out to embrace him.
In the video, which has since gone viral, it appears that Furniss, although initially skeptical, reciprocated the hug.
Courtney was inspired to attend the event after hearing about the emergency declaration by Gov. Rick Scott in anticipation of the event.
“I found out about what kind of person he was and that encouraged me, as an African-American, to come out and protest,” Courtney said.
Once among the crowd, where the situation got increasingly heated, Courtney asked the neo-Nazi to explain why he had such hatred for him.
“I asked him, ‘Why do you hate me? What is it about me? Is it my skin color? My history? My dreadlocks?,” Courtney said.
Furniss initially refused to acknowledge the questions. Rather than get upset by this, Courtney reached for a hug.
“Something in me said, ‘You know what? He just needs love,’” he explained.
Furniss seemed cautious, but he embraced Courtney after a few seconds of hesitation.
It is difficult to show love to our enemies in heated moments of debate, especially when one side is arguing against the very existence of the other. The movement to “punch Nazis,” while appealing to some, likely does more damage to discourse than anything else.
Courtney’s restraint, and his ability to turn a conversation into a powerful moment shared across social media, creates a much more positive outcome that demonstrates love really is stronger than hate.
It’s easier to show fury, shout at, or even engage in violence against such personalities. It takes a stronger person to show compassion and use love to make their point. When that happens, it must be celebrated, and encouraged elsewhere.
Banner/thumb image credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters