An Eyewitness Account of the Now Famous ‘Nazi Salute’ Photo from the Chicago Trump Rally

Mar 13, 2016
1:44 PM

Unless you really haven’t online since Friday night, you already know about the photo E. Jason Wambsgans of The Chicago Tribune took after the Donald Trump rally was cancelled in Chicago at the UIC Pavilion. The photo below shows Birgitt Peterson giving a Nazi saluting to protesters. According to Peterson’s husband, the protesters were doing “their version of the Nazi salute” and calling “us Nazis.” Peterson said that “my wife was responding to them and making this a teaching moment.”

Peterson also said: “If you’re gonna do it, do it right, here’s the right way to do the Nazi salute.'”

Birgitt Peterson also explained why she made the salute, when she told The New York Times the following:

“They said Trump is a second Hitler,” Ms. Peterson said. “I said do you know what that sign stands for? Do you know who Hitler really was?”

“I make the point that they are demonstrating something they had no knowledge about,” she said. “If you want to do it right, you do it right. You don’t know what you are doing.”

That is when she made the Nazi salute — a gesture that is banned in Germany — as a form of counterprotest. But that is all it was, she said.

“Absolutely I’m not a Nazi, no,” she said. “I’m not one of those.”

Another person who was in that photo, Michael Joseph Garza, posted a different story on Facebook about the photo. This is his entire post from last night:

So here’s my story about this picture, and I promise you it’s the god honest truth:

My friend Sean Kavanagh and I are walking out of the UIC Pavilion filled with some of the most palpable joy I’ve ever experienced. We did it.

We fought for the truth and for a moment, a brief day, WON.

As we are leaving Trump protestors form small sections, small channels where Trump supporters can pass through to exit (a kindness which isn’t quite afforded in the inverse when ya know, people get sucker punched being forced out of Trump rallies).

As people are walking out we’re saying things like “Bye racists”, “You lost. Please just go home now.” bc many are leaving with shoves and shoulder checks, begrudgingly, but most with pent-up fury.

The woman pictured with me and what looks to be her husband we’re stragglers in the pack, and started responding to people’s jeers. Some guy ripped a sign out of the man’s hands and another man leapt out of nowhere, encouraging everyone around to respect them and let them leave (again, sometimes America is amazing).

This woman is a human being and although I don’t share her views, I start yelling “I will respect my elders. Please. Leave.” and a few other great folks and I start to clear the path. I walk right up to her and say “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 *my right hand was constantly swinging in motion, showing her the path out we made for her, as shown in the photo*”

She goes, and I quote “Go? Back in my day, you know what we did-”

Bam. Hail’s Hitler.

I go “Ma’am you are endangering your life doing this. LEAVE. TAKE YOUR HUSBAND AND LEAVE.” (I mean, anyone who knows me knows I get loud, so you know, sorry about that.)

And she won’t. She won’t budge. A young woman comes up to me and says “She wants this. Leave her be.” looks to her and goes “God bless you. I hope you make it home safe.” and I walk away from her astounded.

I have never experienced anything like tonight. To see America rise up for a man who hates so much of it, then for him to get checked so wonderfully by a city I love so much, and then for his followers to scream and cackle to the bitter end.

So many fights were stopped. So many people protected others instead of encouraging mayhem. Don’t believe the hype: protestors only stoked a fire in these people that was born long before they had Trump to personify it.

Hate is real my friends. Vicious, hurt you if you aren’t watching, worse if they can get away with it indigence was in so many eyes there.
I say that bc know this: hope is real too. Hope that when we stand up against hate from time to time, and collectively, we can defeat it. Or at least silence that beast, for one damn night.

We are at a point in America where those people, Trump supporters, make me sad. 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.

The world is broken, I learned that best from Christianity. But I don’t believe even one thing on this Earth is beyond repair, and I learned that from Christianity too.

You don’t have to share my belief in Christianity, but I am asking you to stand up against hate. Or this woman’s slanted arm never bears a greater weight than her own ignorance. She may never get the shot to understand love, living in the world where that symbol actually rules again.

Don’t let that happen. Do something. Please, for the sake of everyone, do something.

Later on Facebook, Garza posted this:

I am absolutely overwhelmed by everyone’s support. Thank you from everything inside of me. I don’t even have the mental energy to respond to each persons post right now, but after I spend some time with my wife and cool out, I’m going to try.

Please vote. Please go volunteer somewhere and give life to another. Please serve those around you. Or all of this sharing, all of our fury and even the joy over this victory are of no consequence.