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POLL: Have you ever attended a protest?
Terrance Hightower was fired from his job at Mojo Burrito in St. Elmo on Monday when a co-worker sparked a firestorm on social media, calling him a "Nazi" after Hightower attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Add the 28-year-old Rossville resident to the list of employees around the nation who lost their jobs once they were "outed" for taking part in the white nationalist event that was rocked by violence and chaos.
But Hightower says he's not a Nazi — just a right-wing Donald Trump supporter who went to Charlottesville to oppose the removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's statue from a park there.
"It's a weird situation, because I don't think I did anything wrong by attending the rally," he said. "None of the stuff people are saying about me is true."
The co-worker who outed him, Lillie Stubsten, said on her Facebook page she also was let go from Mojo Burrito Tuesday morning after she gave two weeks' notice Sunday. Stubsten sought donations to tide her and her wife over until her next paycheck comes.
"Listen, I will fight Nazis till the day I die, but I cannot do that if I can't feed myself or my family," she wrote.
Meanwhile, Mojo Burrito's founder and president, Eve Williams, said that until she started getting phone calls about it around 1 a.m. Monday, she didn't know anything about Hightower's political views. She said he was one of about 100 employees at the local chain that has restaurants in St. Elmo, Red Bank and East Brainerd, with another slated for Ooltewah.
She declined to comment further.
"Mojo Burrito does not condone harassment, racism or discrimination of any kind," the St. Elmo restaurant's Facebook page said. "We swiftly took the proper legal steps in order to terminate an employee once we were made aware of the situation."
Interviewed Tuesday at his apartment in Rossville, Hightower said he went to the Charlottesville rally with his sister and a friend, and he didn't expect any violence there.
"I wasn't involved in any violence," he said. "I just went to support them not removing the statue. I'm a right-winger. I voted for Donald Trump. I think I'm a pretty normal, regular Republican voter."
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Hightower pointed to several tattoos on his arms that he said the typical Nazi wouldn't sport, including a peace symbol, a drawing of a hand making a peace sign with a dove for the thumb, and the saying, "we are each other."
Stubsten, 21, who worked for two years at Mojo Burrito, said she saw a bumper sticker on Hightower's moped that said, "My boss is an Austrian painter" — a reference to Adolf Hitler. She said a co-worker complained to a manager about it in early August, but nothing was done.
Stubsten, who describes herself as both a communist and an anarchist, is helping organize a resistance against Nazis rally at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Coolidge Park.
"[Nazism] is something that should be rooted out and destroyed," she said. "There should be consequences for their actions. If they go to that Klan rally unrobed, they should expect to lose their jobs Monday."
Hightower denied having any pro-Nazi bumper stickers on the moped, or on his station wagon, which on Tuesday was festooned with pro-Trump stickers, such as "Deplorable Lives Matter," "Make America Great Again," along with Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character adopted by the alt-right.
Hightower said he wasn't planning to sue over being fired. He said Tennessee is a right-to-work state, and "it kind of seems like they can fire you for any reason."
As for Stubsten's employment ending, Williams said, "That was her choice. Sunday night, before I knew any of this, she gave her resignation."
The restaurant appreciated Stubsten giving two weeks' notice, Williams said, but didn't need her to fulfill the two weeks' work.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.