Customers waited in line at Top Dog on Durant Avenue in Berkeley on Sunday, Aug, 13. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Update, Monday, Aug. 14, 12:37 p.m. Top Dog has released a statement saying employee Cole White, who attended the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, resigned from his job following reports of his involvement in the protest. Another Top Dog employee previously told Berkeleyside White had been fired.

“On Saturday, August 12, it came to our attention that one of our employees was involved in the recent ‘alt-right’ rally in Charlottesville, North Carolina [sic]. Later that day we spoke with Cole White. During that conversation Cole chose to voluntarily resign his employment with top dog and we accepted his resignation,” the company wrote in a press release Monday.

“We pride ourselves on embracing and respecting all our differences and every individual’s choice to do as that person wishes within the boundaries of the law. We do not endorse hatred or any illegal conduct. It simply is not part of our culture.

We do respect our employees’ right to their opinions. They are free to make their own choices but must accept the responsibilities of those choices,” the statement said.

On Sunday, Top Dog posted a sign at its Durant Avenue location, which read that White no longer worked for the company and that the management did not support the actions of those who participated in the Charlottesville events.

Original story, Aug. 13: Berkeley’s Top Dog has fired an employee over his participation in a violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, according to another employee of the popular local chain.

“He no longer works for Top Dog,” said the hot dog restaurant employee, who did not want to give his name.

Internet users identified the former employee, Cole White, in photos of the “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville Friday night. The rally participants, protesting the removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces, included KKK members and neo-Nazis, who carried Tiki torches and yelled slogans like, “White lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us.”

The following day, rally participant James Alex Fields Jr. rammed his car into a group of counter-demonstrators, killing protester Heather Heyer and injuring others, according to police. He has been charged with second-degree murder.

Twitter users quickly posted photos of the events online, asking others to identify the people in them. A user with the handle @YesYoureRacist zoomed in on White, revealing that he worked for Top Dog.

After it came out that White was at the rally, he was immediately fired, the Top Dog employee said.

Top Dog placed a sign on the doors of its Durant Avenue location on Sunday, announcing that, as of Saturday, Aug. 12, Cole no longer worked for the company. “The actions of those in Charlottesville are not supported by top dog. We believe in individual freedom and voluntary association for everyone,” the sign said.

White has participated in local political events too, according to photos of the April 15 Berkeley rally that became a bloody battle between the far-right organizers and far-left Antifa counter-protesters. He also protested outside the courthouse during the arraignment of Eric Clanton, an anti-fascist demonstrator charged with smashing a bike lock over the head of a Trump supporter at that rally.

Hordes of people took to Top Dog’s Yelp pages and social media accounts Saturday, calling for White to be fired.

The Top Dog employee said the business has also been receiving “a ton of calls” and questions from customers since White was outed online.

But “pretty much everyone’s happy with the fact that he no longer works here,” the employee said.

Top Dog’s management has never shied away from promoting its own political views, plastering Libertarian messages over the walls of its two Berkeley locations. (There is a third location in Oakland.) The chain, owned by Richard Rienmann, also posts essays from the Libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute on a section of its website called “Propergander.” A recent essay posted on the site criticized Google for “appeasing modern Social Justice Warriors” at the expense of profit when it fired an employee who distributed a manifesto against Google’s pro-diversity efforts.

Some scholars affiliated with the Ludwig von Mises Institute are pro-Confederacy, according to the New York Times.

The next far-right rally in Berkeley is planned for Aug. 27 at Civic Center Park. After the rally and fatality in Charlottesville, counter-demonstrators on the far left, who already planned to show up at the event, called on social media for others to join them.

Indivisible Berkeley is organizing a General Assembly march and candlelight vigil in solidarity with the people of Charlottesville tonight, Sunday, in Berkeley. It starts at Finnish Hall, 1970 Chestnut St., 7-7:30 p.m.; from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. people will march from Finnish Hall up University Avenue to Civic Center Park; ending at 8 p.m. with a candlelight vigil and speakers in MLK Civic Center Park.

Update, 6:50 p.m.: The original article did not contain White’s name but Berkeleyside added it once Top Dog placed a poster naming him on the door of its Durant Avenue outlet. Berkeleyside included a photo of that poster, so it seemed unnecessary to not name White. Also, Berkeleyside initially used the term “vigilantes” to describe those who identified White online and called for his firing. Berkeleyside removed the term after the article was published because we decided it was too strong a term.

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Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...