As the old saying goes: A picture is worth a thousand words. So when a Chicago rally for Donald Trump was cancelled Friday (March 11) and rioting protesters took over, a photo of a woman in a Trump t-shirt giving the Nazi salute triggered the worst fears in people who had previously just joked about the GOP candidate’s supposedly-racist segment of supporters.
Now, as the photo seems well on its way to becoming an iconic image from the 2016 presidential campaign, the woman is speaking out — and insisting she’s not a Nazi.
69-year-old Birgitt Peterson says that she is the woman in the photo taken by Chicago Tribune photographer E. Jason Wambsgans, and on Saturday (March 12) she spoke with The New York Times from her Yorkville, Illinois home in an attempt to make her message clear.
“The Republican Party needs to be broken up, and I believe Donald Trump is the one to do it,” says Peterson, explaining that she was at the rally to see Trump in person.
According to Peterson, when the rally was canceled she and her husband found themselves surrounded by Anti-Trump protesters, one of whom held a poster with Adolf Hitler’s photo on it. Since she was born in West Berlin in 1946, Peterson decided to give the protester a history lesson.
“They said Trump is a second Hitler; I said do you know what that sign stands for? Do you know who Hitler really was?” she explains. “I make the point that they are demonstrating something they had no knowledge about. If you want to do it right, you do it right. You don’t know what you are doing.”
The newspaper then says that Peterson made the Nazi salute as “a form of counterprotest” and nothing more.
“Absolutely I’m not a Nazi, no,” she tells the Times. “I’m not one of those.”
Nevertheless, the photo spread rapidly across social media, with many using it to depict the face of the Trump fanbase; others tried to tie her to Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
“It’s insulting for anyone to assume that we have anything to do with Nazis,” adds her husband, Don Peterson. “We have never done anything other than demonstrate to a bunch of idiots that when they talk about Nazism, they better learn about it first.”