Peter Cytanovic, Seen in Viral Neo-Nazi Charlottesville Rally Photo, Thrown Out of Military

The man who became the face of the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, attempted to join the military but was kicked out before completing basic training, according to a report.

Peter Cytanovic, who previously went by the surname Cvjetanovic, was expelled from the Nevada National Guard in December 2020 after officials were made aware of his white supremacist ties during a Defense Department background check, authorities confirmed to The Huffington Post.

A photo of Cytanovic holding a tiki torch with his mouth wide open went viral in August 2017.

The image was taken as far-right activists and neo-Nazis chanted "you will not replace us"— a common white supremacist phrase— as well as "Jews will not replace us," at the University of Virginia while protesting plans to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

#WorldPhotographyDay This photo of white supremacist Peter Cvjetanovic at Charlottesville, taken by @corumphoto, may be the most iconic photo related to American extremism that I've seen since the fireman/baby photos after the OKC bombing in 1995. You can just feel the hate. pic.twitter.com/iDLfAYM91F

— Mark Pitcavage (@egavactip) August 19, 2018

The following day, counterprotester Heather Heyer was killed after avowed white supremacist James Fields drove a car into a crowd of people.

The Huffington Post reported that Cytanovic enlisted in the Nevada National Guard in November 2019, and was expelled just over a year later due to his past affiliations.

"Initial criminal and fingerprint checks found no record that would deny enlistment," Lt. Col. Mickey Kirschenbaum said in a statement explaining why he was allowed to join in the first place despite the fact that the military does not accept people who are linked to extremist groups.

Emerson Marcus, another spokesperson for the Nevada National Guard, told the Hunffington Post that Cytanovic's previous links to the far right were unearthed during a Defense Department background check because the FBI had opened an investigation into him in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville rally.

Cytanovic was never charged with a crime in connection to the "Unite the Right" demonstration.

The Nevada National Guard canceled Cytanovic's orders for basic training on July 27, 2020, before receiving a formal "entry-level separation" from the U.S. military in December.

"The Nevada National Guard does not tolerate racist, extremist ideology," Kirschenbaum added in a statement. "The Nevada National Guard took action immediately after discovering Mr. Cytanovic's affiliations."

The Huffington Post said they began looking into Cytanovic's attempts at joining the National Guard after receiving a tip, following a series of articles about extremism in the military. The tip revealed that Cytanovic describes himself as a "U.S. Officer Candidate at US Army" on a LinkedIn profile.

A "Peter Cytanovic VI" is also mentioned as a recent enlistee in a 2020 issue of Battle Born, a quarterly magazine aimed at current and former members of the Nevada National Guard.

After the image of the Charlottesville rally went viral, Cytanovic gave a series of interviews to the media.

At first he denied being an "angry racist" as suggested by the photo, but also told The Reno Gazette-Journal: "I will defend tooth and nail my views as a white nationalist. I love my culture and will fight for it but never in a violent way."

People also demanded he be thrown out of the University of Nevada in Reno where he was studying at the time—which the university declined to do—before giving another interview on The Full Measure With Sharyl Attkisson, in which he announced that "calling myself a white nationalist was very wrong and I no longer agree, I no longer see myself as such."

It was later revealed that Cytanovic went on to a political theory master's program at the London School of Economics (LSE), which also prompted media attention and outcry from students.

In a June 2019 interview with The Beaver, the LSE student newspaper, Cytanovic said he had been harassed by students, including by being asked if he was a Nazi and having tampons thrown at him. He added the school did provide him with the option of security and the numbers of professors he could call if he ever felt threatened.

The LinkedIn profile believed to be Cytanovic's says he is still attending the LSE, but also that he is still presently an officer candidate in the U.S. Army.

The LSE has been contacted for comment. Cytanovic declined to comment on the story about him attempting to join the military when contacted by the Huffington Post via a family member.

Unite the Right
Hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" march down East Market Street toward Emancipation Park during the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. One of the faces of the rally, Peter Cytanovic, was expelled from the Nevada National Guard. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images