A key witness in the "Unite the Right" trial said Tuesday that neo-Nazis used the "OK" hand gesture to identify fellow white nationalists.
Victims of the violent August 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, are suing the organizers, who the complaint accuses of conspiring to commit criminal actions in hopes of sparking a racial war, and former Identity Evropa member Samantha Froelich testified about the aims and communications of her one-time associates.
"Froelich talking about the OK sign," reported BuzzFeed's Christopher Miller. "She said IE members would flash it to see if someone would flash it back. That and other 'dog whistles' were used to identify people who agreed with the alt-right/white supremacist cause."
The gesture has been used for centuries to indicate understanding, but white supremacists started using the sign semi-ironically after a 4chan hoax falsely claimed the finger placement symbolized "white power," and there has been debate ever since about its meaning among extremists, although Froelich's testimony showed how that gesture and other supposedly humorous elements obscured the group's hateful intentions.
"They aren't jokes, it's a cover," she testified. "It's how you get away with saying what you actually think. But also a way to, if someone called you out on it, to say it's just a joke, we don't really mean it ... Plausible deniability. It's a cover."