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Michael Signer

Charlottesville’s Mayor Spoke Out After Hateful Rally

A college professor and small-town mayor, Mike Signer never planned to be at the center of a national controversy. But hours after Charlottesville, Virginia, witnessed a deadly attack following hours of neo-Nazi marches, Signer was thrust into the spotlight, faulting the Trump White House for empowering these groups. “I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in America today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.

Raised in a Jewish family in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, Signer, 44, had his first real encounter with anti-Semitism when he supported the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a city square. When the KKK rolled into town August 12, online slurs targeting Signer were replaced with chants of “Jew, Jew, Jew,” every time speakers mentioned his name.

Signer’s career has bridged progressive Democratic politics, academia and foreign policy. When one tumultuous August weekend made Charlottesville synonymous with American racism, Signer embraced his new role, trying to make sure his community became better known for standing up to hate-mongers.

He is still embroiled in infighting over the protest and its aftermath. Critics claim the city did not provide enough protection to counter-protesters, while Signer has criticized the local police’s conduct.

Rumored to be eyeing a higher political office, Signer now faces an uncertain future. But he will always be remembered for responding swiftly and decisively to events that many thought couldn’t happen in America.

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