Western Pa. company fires man who attended Charlottesville rally
A Western Pennsylvania tile company fired an employee Saturday after a website claimed he was a white supremacist and fascist who attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., and joked online about the death of a protester there.
Michael Beatty, who worked for Pittsburgh Custom Tile in Plum for about six months, said he attended the Charlottesville rally but denied being a white supremacist or a fascist.
"It's very unfortunate because you have a group of communists that are using the tools of dishonesty and harassment to take away someone's right to assemble," Beatty told the Tribune-Review. "All based on lies. Is that fair? No."
Pittsburgh Custom Tile owner Adam Ferkatch said he fired Beatty after seeing his social media posts about the Charlottesville rally and receiving threats, harassment and criticism over a couple of days.
Ferkatch said he hopes he made the right decision.
"I'm not totally clear yet," Ferkatch told the Tribune-Review. "I just think it was something that had to be done."
The identities of several people participating in the Charlottesville rally went public on websites and social media in its aftermath. Many lost jobs because of public-shame campaigns. Some people not affiliated with the rally were wrongly identified.
On Aug. 23, the website itsgoingdown.org posted about Beatty , claiming he was a "white supremacist and self-declared fascist who traveled from Pittsburgh to attend the Unite the Right event in Charlottesville."
The site, which describes itself as a "digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements," posted screenshots it claimed to be from Beatty's Instragram account. The screenshots featured images from the Charlottesville rally. The site also included posts about Nazis that it claimed were from Beatty's Facebook page.
"Pittsburgh Antifascists are calling for Michael Beatty to be immediately fired from his job with Pittsburgh Custom Tile. Below we are sharing the contact information for his employer, and we urge all people of good conscience to call, text, and comment on Facebook to demand that Michael be fired. The continued employment of Michael Beatty by Adam Ferkatch is an endorsement of Michael's participation in white supremacist acts of violence and cannot be allowed to continue," the post read.
Beatty, 29, would not comment on the Instagram or Facebook posts on the website. He said he did nothing wrong at the rally and blamed counter-protesters for igniting violence. He described himself as a Libertarian and a nationalist. Beatty said he went to the Unite the Right rally because he identifies with those aspects of right-wing, conservative politics.
Beatty said "communist vermin" have made his personal information public, and he and his family are receiving threats.
Beatty said he doesn't hold anything against Ferkatch for firing him. He said he liked the work but understood Ferkatch's position.
"It's completely on him," Beatty said. "It's his company."
Ferkatch said he and his business received threats — even death threats — along with harassment, criticism, bad reviews and nonstop emails calling on him to fire Beatty.
"This could lead to a lot of loss of business, and this is my livelihood," Ferkatch said.
Ferkatch said he didn't know about Beatty's views or political activities when he hired him. He spoke highly of Beatty's skills and work ethic.
"The views of Michael Beatty do not represent the views of Pittsburgh Custom Tile. We do not judge people based on their political views, race, gender or ethnicity. We will continue to work as a company who strives for inclusive ideals and family values. As a result, this individual will no longer be employed by us," Ferkatch wrote on Facebook on Saturday.
Ferkatch followed that post with a longer explanation.
Ferkatch said after he made the posts on Facebook, the criticisms died down.
Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.