Motorist James Alex Fields drives car into civil rights group at protest in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, killing one and injuring others. Photo provided by the National Urban League.
The unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, intensified on Saturday, as vehicle plowed into a group of counter-protesters at a White nationalist rally, killing one and injuring 19 others, the Associated Press reported. More than 30 were hurt in total because of events at the rally.
University of Virginia Medical Center spokeswoman confirmed the victims count.
Heather Heyer, a Charlottesville resident and civil rights activist, was identified as the victim of Saturday’s hit-and-run attack, allegedly perpetrated by Ohio resident James Alex Fields. Fields, who was arrested shortly after fleeing the scene, was photographed joining the White supremacist protest. More than a dozen others were injured — several of them seriously — as the vehicle, allegedly driven by Fields, plowed into counter-demonstrators on a street.
Two Virginia State Police troopers were also killed when a police helicopter assisting with the melee crashed outside of Charlottesville. The incident is under investigation but police say that foul play is not suspected.
Following clashes between White nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville on Saturday, Virginia governor Terry McCauliffe declared a state of emergency. Police also demanded that hundreds of people vacate Emancipation Park, where a rally was scheduled to take place at noon.
Groups of White nationalists descended on Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and were met by counter-protesters, leading to violence that began Friday night and continued into Saturday.
During Saturday’s clash between the White nationalists and counter-protesters, bottles have been thrown, and a violent war of words has erupted. Video footage shows a silver Dodge Charger racing down the narrow street, plowing into pedestrians before slamming into two cars. The driver then threw the car into reverse to escape the scene.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday, urging unity among Americans. “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America,” Trump wrote. “Lets come together as one!”
But it was only after Trump was criticized for not addressing the groups involved that he sharply condemned racist, White supremacist, and neo-Nazi sympathizers on Monday afternoon, after nearly 48 hours of bipartisan criticism over his response to the weekend’s violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va. “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments Monday afternoon followed a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Chris Wray, which was added to his schedule Monday morning. The Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation into Saturday’s violence.
Fields, 20, appeared in Charlottesville General District Court by video conference, where a judge read out the charges that include one count of second-degree murder, several counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit and run. Clad in a striped gray and white shirt, Fields was subdued while answering questions from Judge Robert Downer. Fields said he could not afford a lawyer, and Downer assigned private attorney Charles Weber to the case.
National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial issued the following statement on the violence in Charlottesville: “Horrifying expressions of White supremacy and Nazi sympathies sadly are nothing novel in the United States, even in the 21st Century. What is shocking is that these demonstrations – with apparent deliberate fatal assaults against counter-protesters – should take place without a clear condemnation from the highest levels of government. We in the Urban League Movement call upon everyone with a voice on our national stage to condemn these demonstrations and these racist sentiments in the strongest possible terms. This is not who we are as a society and as a nation.”
Cincinnati City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Yvette Simpson issued a statement saying, “I am heartbroken by the events that are unfolding in Charlottesville. I condemn, in the strongest terms possible, the racism and ignorance that led to the death of at least one individual and severe injury of over 19 peaceful protesters. Those killed and injured were standing up to violence and hate. My prayers are with the brave activists who continue to stand on the front-lines of justice and the families of the victims of these senseless acts of hatred and violence. Now, more than ever, we need to resist the ever-present pulls of fear and apathy. It is during these times, that we must remember that we are stronger together than we are divided.”
The presidents of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP, and the Albemarle-
Charlottesville NAACP have issued the following joint statement: “As people can see now very clearly, not voting has consequences,” stated Janette Martin, president of the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP. “On numerous occasions the city of Charlottesville has spent thousands of dollars to support KKK rallies – and city merchants have expressed their dissatisfaction with the loss of revenue that occurs during these rallies.” Martin added. “Violence did not have to be demonstrated in order to express freedom of speech. It appears that free speech was secondary to their main purpose which was to wreak havoc and violence in the community. They have been emboldened by the words and vocabulary of elected officials at the highest levels.”
Linda Thomas, president of the Virginia State Conference of the NAAC, said. “White supremacists and today’s purveyors of hate should find no shadows in which to hide. Our forefathers shed blood so that in 2017, this type of violence would be a footnote of the past.” Added Thomas, “We applaud our governor, Terry McAuliffe, whose statement is in alignment with the NAACP mission. And we encourage the governor to use the full force of his executive powers to eradicate race based barriers in all areas of life within the state. We will persist until we drive racism, and racist behavior from our midst.”
Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) president and State Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) said, “On behalf of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, I strongly condemn the actions and ideology of the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and other White nationalist groups. “Our thoughts and prayers go out the family of Heather Heyer and other people victimized by the hatred and violence over the weekend. It’s time for our nation to heal and have a continued, honest dialogue about racism in the 21st century.”