After Saturday’s violent demonstration by KKK and neo-Nazi groups in Charlottesville, Va., Page Braswell decided she couldn’t remain silent about a man in her town flying a Nazi flag.
Braswell, 44, didn’t know Joe Love until she pulled into his driveway Sunday, but both live near the town of Mount Holly in Gaston County, about 15 miles northwest of Charlotte. Braswell said a photo had been circulating of a Nazi flag hanging at the home.
“I thought, ‘What? This is my town,’ ” Braswell said Monday after video of her confronting Love had been viewed 138,000 times and shared almost 3,000 times on Facebook.
The video shows Braswell driving to Love’s home, spotting the flag and a Trump sticker on his truck, then asking, “Hey! What’s up with the Nazi flag?”
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Love asks who she is and says, “What’s that flag got to do with you?” He tells her his name and, in language laced with profanity and hand gestures, tells her it’s none of her business and she should leave. He says he’s not a Nazi but “this is Nazi f---ing America.”
“Where do you live? What kind of flag do you fly?” he asks.
“I fly a rainbow flag, thank you,” Braswell responds, prompting Love to call her “queer” and “lesbian.”
Braswell said Monday she’s actually a straight, white, married woman with no rainbow flag at her house, though she’d like one. But she said the kind of language leveled briefly at her is the kind of thing minorities and LGBT people face all the time.
“They’ve got to be brave every day. There’s no reason I can’t be brave for two minutes,” she said. “If people are doing it, we need to call it out. If we don’t, it’s just going to get worse.”
She said as a volunteer at a Charlotte women’s clinic she’s faced with confrontational protesters often. If the resident of the house had had a civil conversation about the flag, she said, she might not have posted the video on Facebook. But she did, complete with Love’s name, street address and family business.
“Share far and wide; let’s run this Nazi out of town. For real,” she posted.
Love had not responded Monday to the Observer’s calls for comment at his home and the business. But he told the Gaston Gazette he displayed the Nazi flag after three Confederate flags he’d hung were stolen.
“That used to be a religious symbol in India until Hitler got ahold of it,” Love told the Gazette. “A lot of people don’t know that. … I agree with the symbol as it started out as a religious symbol. But as far as backing Hitler and being a white supremacist and Hitler, I’m not into that.”
The Gazette reported that Love took the flag down and promised to replace it with another Confederate flag.
Braswell said she probably wouldn’t have reacted to a Confederate flag: “There are lots of those in Gaston County, which is still horrible.”
But weekend “Unite the Right” demonstrations in Charlottesville, sparked by the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, brought displays of Confederate and Nazi symbols, as well as anti-Semitic chants. Protesters and counterdemonstrators clashed, with a participant in the white supremacy rally allegedly plowing his car into a crowd of anti-racist activists, killing one and injuring 19.
In the aftermath, social media were flooded with calls for white people to speak up against violence and bigotry. Braswell said she agrees: “Not everyone will be able to confront racism, but here’s the thing: We white people caused this mess, and it’s our mess to clean up,” she wrote on Facebook.
Several people on Facebook cautioned against face-to-face confrontations with people who might get violent. Braswell said she was willing to take the risk – even now that her challenge to Love has gotten such widespread notice.
“This is Gaston County,” she said, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek. “We are all armed and have lots of mean dogs.”