By Carla Branch
When The Atlantic reported last week that Richard Spencer was moving himself and his Alt-Right headquarters to Old Town, Alexandrians’ responses were quick and predictable.
On Friday, Jan. 13, a day after The Atlantic article was published, City offices received numerous calls from concerned members of the public who wanted to know what the City was going to do about Spencer’s move. Mayor Allison Silberberg and members of City Council also received calls and emails from constituents.
According to reports, Spencer has rented the second-floor townhouse at 1001 King Street. Wasiq Mahwash purchased the property in 2016 and according to City records is the current owner. Blüprint Chocolatiers, which occupies the first-floor of the building, is not affiliated in any way with Spencer or his organization.
While The Atlantic reported that Spencer intended to use the King Street location as both a residence and a business, it is unclear exactly what activities will take place there. Craig Fifer, director of communications for the City of Alexandria, released the following statement in response to questions:
“There is no place for hate or intolerance in Alexandria. The Mayor and City Council have consistently reaffirmed that diversity and inclusiveness are integral to our community, most recently in fall 2016: www.alexandriava.gov/94948.
“While individuals can form opinions about each other based on who they are and what they believe, governments must enforce the law fairly and uniformly. The City has no authority to regulate residential or commercial property owners or tenants who follow the law while purchasing or leasing space. But while we uphold the First Amendment right to free speech, we will not permit harassment or hate crimes in our city,” Fifer wrote.
About Richard Spencer
According to Wikipedia, Richard Spencer “is an American white nationalist, known for promoting white supremacist views. He is president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think-tank, and Washington Summit Publishers, an independent publishing firm. Spencer has stated that he rejects the description of white supremacist, and describes himself as an identitarian. He advocates for a white homeland for a "dispossessed white race" and calls for "peaceful ethnic cleansing" to halt the "deconstruction" of European culture.
Spencer has repeatedly quoted from Nazi propaganda and spoken critically of the Jewish people, although he has denied being a neo-Nazi. Spencer and his organization drew considerable media attention in the weeks following the 2016 Presidential election, where, in response to his cry "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!", a number of his supporters gave the Nazi salute similar to the Sieg Heil chant used at the Nazis' mass rallies. Spencer has defended their conduct, stating that the Nazi salute was given in a spirit of "irony and exuberance."