A man participating in a Trump convoy repeatedly yelled “Heil Hitler” and gave a straight-arm Nazi salute in response to Black Lives Matter protesters in Hillsborough today.
Organized through the Orange County Republican Party, the parade was billed as a “Trump Train” caravan and passed through the county seat Hillsborough at about 2:30 p.m. before heading west to Mebane, and circling back through Hillsborough.
The man who yelled “Heil Hitler” and made the Nazi salute was in a vehicle that did not display any flags or other campaign messaging except for a Trump sticker taped into the back window, but it was directly behind at least four vehicles flying Trump flags and a fifth with an American flag.
An antiracist activist who filmed the caravan said he saw the vehicle pull up to a stoplight about 15 minutes before the caravan passed through, and heard the passenger laugh and shout, “Black lives matter? Not to us they don’t.” The antiracist activist, who spoke to TCB on condition his name was withheld, said he thought the vehicle might have traveled to where the parade was mustering at the Orange County Republican Party headquarters about a mile south.
Orange County Republican Party Vice-Chair John Gaither, who organized the Trump caravan, told TCB he doesn’t know the man who yelled “Heil Hitler” and doesn’t remember the vehicle in the lineup when the caravan left the party headquarters. Gaither also said he instructed participants to turn on their headlights, and the vehicle carrying the Hitler supporter did not do so.
“I can’t speak for the guy that made the derogatory remarks,” Gaither said. “We don’t support that as the North Carolina/Orange County Republican Party. Anyone who would carry on in such a drastic way we don’t want them as part of our organization.”
Gaither speculated that the man would have yelled “Heil Hitler” and made a Nazi salute even if the Trump caravan hadn’t come through Hillsborough.
“Take that out of the equation,” he said. “I’m sure that guy would have driven up Churton Street and encountered the Black Lives Matter protesters and would have done the same thing.” He added, “Regular lock-stock-and-barrel Republicans stand against racism. We’re not racist-minded.”
Trump has described Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and people who are bringing “drugs” and “crime” to the United States and has used the term “shithole” to describe countries in Africa. The president has repeatedly referred to those participating in largely peaceful protests against police brutality against Black people as “rioters,” “looters” and “anarchists.” He recently banned federal agencies and contractors from conducting racial sensitivity trainings, and threatened to withhold federal funding from California schools if they were found to be incorporating the New York Times 1619 Project into curriculum. But Gaither, the Orange County Republican Party vice chair, said he believes the president has denounced racism and white supremacy, although he could not cite a specific example of him doing so.
The incident comes only seven days after men from two separate vehicles yelled “white power” from a Trump convoy organized by the founder of the neo-Confederate group ACTBAC. The two men, one of whom has been identified as a local pastor, yelled the white supremacist slogan at Elon University professor Megan Squire who was holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign as the convoy passed through the university town.
CORRECTION: This story previously stated incorrectly that the Trump caravan passed through Chapel Hill. That was not the case. The story has also been updated to incorporate comments by the vice chair of the Orange County Republican Party and observations by an antiracist activist who witnessed the incident.