Charlottesville protest driver charged with hate crimes

Man accused of murder at white supremacist rally in US state of Virginia last year faces 29 charges of hate crime.

White supremacists are met by a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

The man accused of killing a woman when he rammed a car into a crowd of people protesting against a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, now faces federal hate crime charges.

The Department of Justice announced that an indictment returned on Wednesday charges James Alex Fields Jr, 21, of Maumee, Ohio, with 30 crimes, including one count of a hate crime resulting in the death of Heather Heyer, and 28 other hate crimes involving an attempt to kill the dozens of other people who were injured.

Another charge accuses him of “racially motivated violent interference”.

“Last summer’s violence in Charlottesville cut short a promising young life and shocked the nation,” US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Today’s indictment should send a clear message to every would-be criminal in America that we aggressively prosecute violent crimes of hate that threaten the core principles of our nation.”

Authorities have said Fields, described by a former teacher as having a keen interest in Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, drove his speeding car into a group of people demonstrating against the “Unite the Right” political rally on August 12 that drew hundreds of white supremacists to the college town, where officials planned to remove a Confederate monument.

Fields, who has been in custody since the rally, already faces state charges including first-degree murder and is set to face a jury trial later this year.


The car attack came after the rally had descended into chaos – with violent brawling between attendees and counterdemonstrators – and authorities had forced the crowd to disband.

The eight-page indictment alleges Fields decided to attend the rally on or before August 8.

As he prepared to leave to travel to Charlottesville, a family member sent him a text message urging him to be careful, the indictment said.

Fields replied, “We’re not the ones who need to be careful,” and attached an image of Adolf Hitler, according to the indictment, which also says Fields used social media to promote racist views.

Fields then attended the rally on August 12, engaging in chants promoting white supremacist and other racist and anti-Semitic views, the indictment said.

After authorities forced the crowd to disband, Fields drove his car towards the area where a “racially and ethnically diverse crowd” had gathered to protest, the indictment said.

“Fields rapidly accelerated, through a stop sign and across a raised pedestrian mall, and drove directly into the crowd,” it went on to say. 

In a statement, FBI Special Agent in Charge Adam S Lee of the Richmond Division thanked the business owners and Charlottesville residents who he said had “worked with us and provided a massive volume of evidence in this case”.

Source: AP