Jason Downard became a white supremacist while serving prison time for his involvement in a drive-by shooting.
Nearly a decade later, the 28-year-old from Oregon came to Washington as neo-Nazis marched through the nation’s capital and rallied outside the White House.
But Downard’s message on Sunday was one of peace, not hate.
Wearing a black T-shirt with the words “I am a former neo-Nazi, ask me questions” printed across it, Downard said he was in Washington to try to encourage white supremacists to leave the movement.
“My message is for peace and love on all sides,” Downard told reporters as he stood at Lafayette Square, a large public park on the north side of White House.
“We don’t want violence to happen, so it’s spreading the message that people can change and there is hope for people,” he added.
He later gave a black woman who was at the protest a big hug.
Downard was one of hundreds of counter-protesters who headed into the US capital to try to drown out a small number of white supremacists that arrived in the afternoon.
Only about 20 of them turned out to the early part of the so-called Unite The Right rally.
Scores of police officers on foot and on motorcycles protected the extremists and escorted them from a metro station to the White House while counter-demonstrators yelled insults and jeered at them.
The Unite The Right rally was being held on the anniversary of a deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia that highlighted the growing boldness of America’s extreme right.