Aaron Courtney, a high school coach and the son of a bishop, told reporters he felt God affirm his desire to hug a White man dressed in Nazi, or skinhead, gear outside of a contentious rally in Gainesville, Florida, Thursday.
Driven by curiosity about the state of emergency Gov. Rick Scott issued for his county due to a planned visit by white supremacist Richard Spencer to the University of Florida in Gainesville, Courtney eventually found himself participating in a protest near the campus.
“I found out about what kind of person he was (Spencer) and that encouraged me, as an African-American, to come out and protest. Because this is what we’re trying to avoid. It’s people like him who are increasing the distance … between people,” Courtney told the New York Daily News.
The New York Post reports that an estimated 300 people had shown up at the University of Florida Gainesville to protest Spencer’s presence.
In one video clip published by Politics for Dummies on Twitter, Courtney is seen hugging a White man identified as Randy Furniss while dropping f-bombs in his requests to know the man’s motive for “hating” him.
In videos of the hugs and in photos of Furniss being punched by an apparent Black man, he is seen wearing red suspenders and a white t-shirt emblazoned with perverted swastikas.
A man wearing swastikas is punched at a protest against white nationalist #RichardSpencer https://t.co/NQx2rLelNW #SpenceratUF????:Brian Blanco pic.twitter.com/DuK6b8VmIX
— Getty Images News (@GettyImagesNews) October 19, 2017
Courtney had been prepared to leave the protest, he told the Daily News, when he eventually found himself standing in front of Furniss and pleading to know why the man “hated” him. Courtney told the paper he “almost broke out in tears, growing increasingly angry because I didn’t understand.”
Courtney attempted twice to hug Furniss.
The high school coach told the Daily News that he felt something inside him say that Furniss “just needs love.”
The White man relented on Courtney’s third gesture for a hug and reciprocated the embrace.
“I reached over and the third time, he wrapped his arms around me, and I heard God whisper in my ear, ‘You changed his life,'” Courtney said.
When asked again why he “hated” Courtney, Furniss finally replied: “I don’t know.”
Courtney told the Daily News that he felt Furniss’ response was “sincere.”
Here are two videos of the men’s exchange, with both including adult language.
A nazi and a black man…..America 2017 #SpencerAtUF pic.twitter.com/sSaG36EuOr
— Politics 4 Dummies (@Politics4dum) October 19, 2017