By Susan Johnes
A video posted on Twitter has gone viral showing a black man hugging a Nazi outside white supremacist leader Richard Spencer’s speech which was being delivered on Thursday afternoon at the University of Florida.
The event was Spencer’s first public speech on a college campus since he led hundreds of white supremacists, white nationalists, and others through the University of Virginia in a far-right rally in August that preceded a weekend of violent protests in Charlottesville.
The video shows a 31-year-old man identified as Aaron Alex Courtney suddenly appearing from the crowd, hugging the man and asking, “Why don’t you like me, dog?” the man asked Furniss.
The New York Daily News reported Aaron Courtney as a high school football coach in Gainesville, who said he wanted to show Furniss some love. “I could have hit and hurt him, but something in me said, he just needs love,” Courtney told the Daily News.
Even though the hug may have been a small act, but to Courtney, the hug speaks volumes. “The act was a step in the right direction because one hug can change the world,” he said.
Originally, Courtney hadn’t planned on attending the protest. But according to Daily News, he was surprised when he received a state of emergency notification on Monday, ahead of Spencer’s planned appearance.
Initially, Courtney hardly recognized Spencer’s name. He decided to engage in some research. “I found out his identity, and that encouraged me as an African-American, to come out and protest because this is what we’re trying to avoid. Its people like him who are increasing the distance between people,” Courtney said.
After spending nearly four hours in the protest, Courtney was about to leave the protest when he saw Furniss causing a scene in the crowd.
“I had the opportunity to talk to someone who hates my guts, and I wanted to know why,” Courtney told the Daily News. “During our conversation, I repeatedly asked him, ‘Why do you hate me? What is it about me? Is it my skin color? My history? My dreadlocks?” he said.
But he was only met with silence and a blank look. Courtney then asked Furniss for a hug in which he reluctantly gave, wrapping his arms around Courtney.
“I heard God whisper in my ear, ‘You changed his life,’” Courtney said. “Why do you hate me?” Courtney asked Furniss one last time to which he finally replied “I don’t know,” which was a good enough answer for Courtney.
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