Democracy Dies in Darkness

Food

Charlottesville white nationalist demonstrator loses job at libertarian hot dog shop

By Maura Judkis

August 14, 2017 at 12:46 PM

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A campaign to identify the marchers spread on social media following the bloody right-wing rally in Charlottesville. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

Updated 3:15 p.m.

A white nationalist who participated in the torch-lit march through the University of Virginia's campus this weekend has lost his job at a Berkeley, Calif., hot dog restaurant after Twitter users posted his photo and place of employment. The employee, Cole White, was identified online after he was photographed among a shouting and torch-wielding mob during the march Friday night in Charlottesville.

After being "inundated with inquiries," his former employer, Top Dog, in downtown Berkeley, posted a sign on its door that reads: "Effective Saturday 12th August, Cole White no longer works at Top Dog. The actions of those in Charlottesville are not supported by Top Dog. We believe in individual freedom and voluntary association for everyone," multiple news outlets reported. The shop has a political bent of its own, as it's well-known in Berkeley for the libertarian stickers and articles posted on its walls, and website.

Top Dog issued a statement to the Washington Post that read, in part:

"Cole chose to voluntarily resign his employment with Top Dog and we accepted his resignation. There have been reports that he was terminated.  Those reports are false.  There have been reports that top dog knowingly employs racists and promotes racist theology.  That too is false. Individual freedom and voluntary exchange are core to the philosophy of Top Dog. We look forward to cooking the same great food for at least another 50 years."

Another part of the statement noted: "We do respect our employees' right to their opinions. They are free to make their own choices but must accept the responsibilities of those choices."

When asked by The Post if White would have been permitted to keep his job had he not resigned, the shop declined to comment further.

White was in Charlottesville for the "Unite the Right" rally, which turned deadly on Saturday. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, who was described as a Nazi sympathizer by one of his high school teachers, is accused of ramming his car into a group of counterprotesters, injuring 19 and killing Heather Heyer, 32. Two Virginia state troopers — H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke Bates, 40 —  were killed while doing surveillance work during Saturday's rally when their helicopter crashed.

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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Aug. 13 said Charlottesville is “stronger” a day after violence erupted in the city. The organizer of a white nationalist rally said clashes occurred because police declined “to do their job.” (Whitney Leaming, Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

Related: [Discomfort food: Using dinners to talk about race, violence and America]

The mostly male crowd that participated in Friday night's tiki-torch-lit rally did not cover their faces, and they were widely photographed. A Twitter account, @YesYoureRacist, began posting photographs of participants and uncovering their identities. White was among the first it named. The account would soon identify students enrolled at the University of Nevada and Washington State University, leading both of the schools to issue statements condemning racism.

Top Dog, a Berkeley campus fixture, isn't shy about its libertarian values. "The walls … are covered with libertarian bumper stickers, yellowed newspaper articles urging the privatization of the postal service, and hand-lettered signs with statements like, 'Beware the leader' and 'There's no government like no government,'" wrote SF Weekly in 1996.

A section of the restaurant's website is dedicated to "Propergander," posting articles about sanctuary cities, nuclear war and diversity. A recent article about an anti-diversity memo circulating at Google read, in part, "Jim Crow is long gone, but it seems that Progressives (which gave us Jim Crow in the first place) now are imposing what essentially is a new form of segregation, that being ideological and religious segregation that is more reminiscent of how the former USSR treated dissidents than anything we have seen in private enterprise." The website was down for a time after the weekend's incidents but was online as of Monday afternoon.

Related: [In good hands: How immigrants craft your favorite restaurant dishes]

The restaurant wrote to one Twitter user that it had been overwhelmed with inquiries about White:

The restaurant's Facebook page has been deluged with complaints about White, and its Yelp page is under "active cleanup alert," due to the high number of people posting negative comments about him (Yelp's note says it tries to remove comments related more to news events than users' experience with the business). One sample review: "Great place for Neo-Nazis. For people who aren't Neo-Nazis? Not so much. A hot dog is a hot dog, but a hot dog place that not only employs Neo-Nazis but posts alt-right screeds on their webpage is a place that makes me want to vomit. But if you hate minorities, you might have a friend in Berkeley's Top Dog."

By the way, the hot dogs are kosher-style.

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Charlottesville residents respond to the violence that erupted in their city Aug. 12. (Elyse Samuels, Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)

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Discomfort food: Using dinners to talk about race, violence and America


Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts.

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