Students gathered at the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, to protest Peter Cvjetanovic as he gave his senior thesis presentation on Wednesday, May 9. Cvjetanovic is known for being photographed as a protester at the Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer.
The event was organized by more than one person, one of which was a fifth-year student Audra Grey.
“This institution has protected Peter ever since he became the international face of white supremacy after Charlottesville,” Grey said. “Arguments of free speech and equal rights have been used continuously to defend Peter’s presence on campus, and what a lot of moderates on campus seem to not understand is how those defenses are used to silence students of color, queer students, religious minorities, immigrants, and all other marginalized folks who have legitimate concerns about the threats to our safety.”
The group decided to protest Cvjetanovic’s presentation because of the possibility of him having a career in the field of history.
“[…] our presence at his history thesis presentation was necessary in order for us to speak out against the present day violence implicated by ideologies like his and the historical violence and erasure that white supremacy has inflicted on our people in the past,” Grey said.
According to one protestor, the original plan was to sit quietly at the back of the lecture hall with signs, but they were told by university police they were not allowed inside. Once Cvjetanovic concluded his presentation, students followed him to a luncheon that was being held for the history department.
“Peter seemed as if he had been practicing for this,” the protester said. “He held his hands behind his back and did his best to not look at us and not engage when we were asking him about his beliefs. He led us straight through the entire library to the luncheon .”
The protester said that university police threatened to arrest the group and eventually ushered them out of the library.
“Officers were present at this event, as with many campus events, to ensure that public safety was protected and those attending were allowed to express their free speech rights,” said assistant director for the University of Nevada, Reno’s Police Services, Todd Renwick.
Grey says that they felt empowered by the people at the protest due to the collective sense of solidarity. However, they did not approve of how the situation was handled by university faculty.
“I am disappointed in the faculty members who, despite having the opportunity to handle this situation very differently, chose to call the police in an attempt to silence us,” Grey said. “None of us are surprised because they fail us every single time.”
In the video below, one can see Peter being followed by a group of protestors chanting “Run, Nazi, Run.”
“I felt that the students were protesting at the wrong place and time,” Cvjetanovic said. “It was an academic event, a senior thesis presentation, for the graduating seniors of the history department. It was inappropriate, disruptive, and rude to not only the history department faculty and students but also to the other students in the knowledge center who wanted to study in peace. “
President Marc Johnson is aware of the incident and did not fully comment on the situation other than to say students have a right to protest.
“People do what they do. People have a right to protest,” President Johnson said. “There are different people on different sides of the issue and they’re expressing themselves. It was just an incident, I don’t have any reason to comment on it.”
Karolina Rivas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @karolinarrivas.