A man describing himself as a white nationalist attacked a transgender woman with pepper spray as she was preparing for a rally. The incident happened Sunday evening, Sept. 3, in Asbury Park. The rally “Stand Against Hate” was held the next day on Labor Day in the New Jersey shore town. According to a witness, the group was preparing signs to be used at the rally the next day when they were approached by a man who began to insult the crowd.
In a Facebook post from Garden State Equality, one of the witnesses described the crime in detail. “A hate assault just took place in Asbury Park on Ocean Avenue in front of our very eyes. A white nationalist wearing a Pepe the Frog shirt just maced a friend who happens to be trans. In the eyes. Luckily, Asbury Park Police Department arrested this “white nationalist” [his words] and everyone is OK.
“We were painting signs. Freaking signs,” said the Facebook poster on video. “If you were on the fence about attending the rally tomorrow, please reconsider. Please join us tomorrow to Stand Against Hate, a rally for the victims Of Charlottesville, in saying “Not in our town! Not in any town!”
Asbury Park police say the incident occurred at 7:29 pm. The 22-year-old man, identified as Morris May White, fled the scene following the attack, but was apprehended and arrested. He is charged with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Police are not charging May with a hate crime.
“No incident like this will be tolerated,” said John Moor, the mayor of Asbury Park.
“I consider Asbury Park to be one of the few LGBT safe havens in New Jersey,” said Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality. “It’s extremely discouraging that an event like this took place,” Fuscarino told NJ 101.5 radio. “But I am confident that love and solidarity and understanding is always stronger than extremism and hate.”
According to witnesses, the suspect was wearing a “Pepe the Frog” t-shirt. Pepe the Frog was originally created for a comic by Matt Furie called Boy’s Club. Since its creation, the image has been widely used by the alt-right. The image was added to a database of hate symbols by the Anti-Defamation League in 2016.
Outraged that his creation was being used as a symbol of hate, Furie has said that he will donate settlements he receives from the illegal use of his character to a Muslim-American advocacy group.