The Donald Trump supporter who was caught on camera giving the Nazi salute during an altercation with protesters following Trump’s cancelled Chicago rally on Friday is defending her actions after the photograph became a viral sensation over the weekend.
Birgitt Peterson, the 69-year-old woman who claims to be the person pictured in the Chicago Tribune’s infamous photo, stated that she and her husband, Donald, had left the UIC Pavilion in Chicago after the Trump rally was canceled due to security concerns. Birgitt, who said that she emigrated from West Berlin and has been a U.S. citizen since 1982, argued that her salute arose during an argument with surrounding protesters.
“The one lady, she said: ‘Hey, white supremacist,’” Birgitt told the Chicago Tribune, adding that another woman said to her, “Hitler is Donald Trump … This is what you are. Why did you vote for this man?”
According to Birgitt, the final straw came when some of the protesters allegedly told her, “You are here to vote for Hitler,” and began giving the Nazi salute.
After Birgitt asked the protesters if they knew what the Nazi salute meant, Donald said that his wife “decided to teach them to do it.”
“I lifted my arms,” Birgitt told the Chicago Tribune, adding that she said, “Hail to the German Reich” in German.
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“I make the point that they are demonstrating something they had no knowledge about,” Birgitt said, according to the New York Times. “If you want to do it right, you do it right. You don’t know what you are doing.”
Birgitt insists that her now-infamous Nazi salute was meant to be a form of counter-protest, and nothing more.
“Absolutely I’m not a Nazi, no,” Birgitt told the New York Times. “I’m not one of those.”
However, Michael Joseph Garza, who claims that he is the prominent protester who was photographed with Peterson, told the Tribune on Saturday that he did not think Peterson was responding to anyone else when she gave the Nazi salute.
“Ma’am we have listened to you. We understand this is all a little wild but we have cleared a path for you to leave,” Garza claimed that he said to Birgitt. “She goes, and I quote ‘Go? Back in my day, you know what we did —’ Bam. Hail’s [sic] Hitler.”
“We are at a point in America where those people, Trump supporters, make me sad,” Garza wrote in a Facebook post. “But the ones who make me angry? The incredibly intelligent, brightest minds I know, who sit on their hands and do nothing, don’t vote, don’t volunteer, and pretend as though their knowledge abdicates them from action.”
But Donald insisted that his wife, who grew up in postwar Germany and knew first-hand the emotional impact of Hitler’s reign, meant nothing insidious by her salute.
“It really makes her mad that they compare somebody [like Trump] to Hitler without knowing history,” Donald told the Tribune. “That is an insult to anybody who lived through it.”
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