For background on who Keene resident and white nationalist Christopher Cantwell was before his turn toward racism, please see my previous article, “The Curious Case of Christopher Cantwell” here. You may have heard that he was recently denied bail after being initially granted it by a different Albemarle county Virginia judge, regarding alleged pepper spraying of people at a violent protest involving despicable white nationalists and also-despicable “anti-fascists” aka “antifa”.
Chris recently received more than fifteen minutes of infamy when VICE news did a documentary about the hate-fueled protests a few weeks ago in Charlottesville, VA. Video of him spraying pepper spray in the middle of a fight between the protestors quickly surfaced and VA police issued multiple felony warrants for his arrest and he ultimately turned himself in. Despite having a history of attending court and no criminal history of violence on his record, Chris was denied bail, with the judge in the appeal actually citing his free speech, offensive as it is, as a reason for the denial! Judge Cheryl Higgins said, according to a paraphrase by Daily Progress:
while he may be a “shock jock,” his comments following the rally should not be ignored and “tend to show a certain level of approval of the violence that was used.
She then stripped him of the $25,000 bond option that another judge earlier in the same day had granted. This after an hours-long bail appeal hearing where Cantwell’s bizarre attorney actually had him take the stand to testify – generally considered to be a terrible legal strategy this early in a case. According to the Daily Beast, Cantwell’s attorney is Elmer Woodard:
who appeared in court wearing an early-1800s-style red waistcoat with gold buttons, bowtie, white muttonchop whiskers, black velcro shoes, and a a 1910s-style straw boater hat. Cantwell said Woodard was his fourth choice for legal counsel after three other lawyers declined to take his case.
Inept attorney aside, Cantwell’s racism and his violent rhetoric, while despicable and deplorable, is not reason to deny bail. Unfortunately, far too many people, even supposed libertarians who should know better, are applauding his political imprisonment. I caution you to remember the famous poem from the World War II era’s German pastor Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
Whether Chris shot pepper spray aggressively or in self-defense remains to be seen. He’s supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. To keep him in pre-trial detention harms his ability to prepare his defense and anyone who cares about a fair justice system should be outraged.
You can hear him tell his side of the story in this recent episode of Free Talk Live from this Saturday where we had him on live from his jail cell in Albemarle County, VA. It starts at about 44:29 in to the show: