Neo-Nazi ter­ror­ist slams car into Va. crowd


A NEO-NAZI plowed his car into pro­test­ers who had gath­ered to op­pose a white su­prem­a­cist rally in a Vir­ginia col­lege town on Sat­ur­day, killing a 32-year-old woman and in­jur­ing at least 19 oth­ers, po­lice said.

The bloody day in Charlottesville turned even more tragic in the evening when a Vir­ginia State Po­lice he­li­copter mon­i­tor­ing the melees crashed miles away — killing two of­fi­cers, of­fi­cials said.

The car­nage came dur­ing a whirl­wind 24 hours in which hun­dreds of white na­tion­al­ists con­verged on the home of the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia — lead­ing to out­breaks of vi­o­lence and a state of emer­gency be­ing de­clared by the gover­nor.

Ten­sions flared and pro­test­ers clashed, cul­mi­nat­ing in the ter­ri­fy­ing mo­ment when James Fields Jr. drove his sil­ver Dodge Chal­lenger into a crowd of coun­ter­protesters, killing one and maim­ing many more, po­lice said.

“I was stand­ing on the edge of the crowd and I saw the bod­ies fly,” said Kris­ten Leigh. “There was a car pum­mel­ing through us. ... bod­ies fly­ing through the air.”

Fields, 20, of Maumee, Ohio, fled by quickly back­ing his car away from the scene, but was ar­rested a few blocks away.

He was charged with sec­ond­de­gree mur­der, three counts of ma­li­cious wound­ing and fail­ing to stop at a fa­tal ac­ci­dent, au­thor­i­ties said.

Fields was pho­tographed ear­lier in the day hold­ing a shield aligned with Van­guard Amer­ica, a hate group that uses the na­tion­al­ist slo­gan “blood and soil” and be­lieves the U.S. is for the “White Amer­i­can peo­ples.”

Fields’ mother said he told her last week that he was go­ing to an “alt-right” rally in Vir­ginia, but she didn’t in­quire fur­ther.

“I try to stay out of his po­lit­i­cal views,” Saman­tha Bloom told the Toledo Blade. “I don’t get too in­volved.

“I told him to be care­ful,” she added. “If they are go­ing to rally, to make sure he is do­ing it peace­fully.”

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions an­nounced late Sat­ur­day that the Jus­tice De­part­ment was open­ing a fed­eral civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent.

The lone fa­tal­ity was iden­ti­fied as Heather Heyer, a para­le­gal from nearby Greene County whose last pub­lic Face­book mes­sage read, “If you’re not out­raged, you’re not pay­ing at­ten­tion.”

Of the 19 peo­ple in­jured in the crash, five were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, four in se­ri­ous, six in fair and four were in good health, of­fi­cials said.

Some 15 other peo­ple were hurt in the brawls that broke out be­fore and af­ter the road­way rampage, of­fi­cials said.

Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, in a sharply worded ad­dress af­ter the car at­tack, spoke di­rectly to the “white su­prem­a­cists and Nazis who came into Charlottesville to­day.”

“Our mes­sage is plain and sim­ple: Go home,” McAuliffe said. “You are not wanted in this great com­mon­wealth. Shame on you. You pre­tend that you are pa­tri­ots, but you are any­thing but pa­tri­ots.”

Pres­i­dent Trump con­demned the blood­shed but drew a storm of crit­i­cism from politi­cians on both sides of the aisle af­ter he failed to specif­i­cally call out the white su­prem­a­cists and neo-Nazis blamed for the vi­o­lence.

In­stead, the Pres­i­dent said the “ha­tred, big­otry and vi­o­lence” came from “many sides.”

Nerves were strained in the South­ern city from the start of the “Unite the Right” week­end, which be­gan on Fri­day night as torch-car­ry­ing white su­prem­a­cists marched through the cam­pus, near Charlottesville’s down­town.

The con­tro­ver­sial event was ar­ranged to “af­firm the right of South­ern­ers and white peo­ple to or­ga­nize for their in­ter­ests,” ac­cord­ing to its Face­book page.

White na­tion­al­ists, neo-Con­fed­er­ates and alt-right ac­tivists could be heard chant­ing “white lives mat­ter” and “you will not re­place us.” A few chanted “blood and soil,” a well-known Nazi ral­ly­ing cry.

Among those lead­ing the demon­stra­tion were or­ga­nizer Ja­son Kessler, alt-right leader Richard Spencer and for­mer Ku Klux Klan Im­pe­rial Wizard David Duke, who said the large size of the gath­er­ing rep­re­sented how he and his fel­low racists feel em­bold­ened un­der Pres­i­dent Trump.

“We are go­ing to ful­fill the prom­ises of Don­ald Trump,” Duke said. “That’s why we voted for Don­ald Trump, be­cause he said he’s go­ing to take our coun­try back.”

The Fri­day evening march, with its overt Ku Klux Klan un­der­tones, was even­tu­ally bro­ken up by po­lice, with both pro­test­ers and op­po­nents claim­ing they were pep­per sprayed.

By Sat­ur­day, ten­sions erupted as hun­dreds of peo­ple brawled and hurled wa­ter bot­tles at one an­other.

Cam­ou­flage-clad men in com­bat gear, many car­ry­ing ri­fles, shields and Con­fed­er­ate flags, walked in lock­step.

Many in the crowd wore Nazi uni­forms or sym­bols. A few sported shirts with quotes from Adolf Hitler. “One peo­ple, one na­tion, end im­mi­gra­tion,” they chanted as they marched through the streets.

The demon­stra­tors were con­fronted sev­eral times by coun­ter­protesters be­fore they reached their ral­ly­ing point, a statue of Con­fed­er­ate Gen­eral Robert E. Lee that is slated to be re­moved.

McAuliffe said he had de­clared a state of emer­gency to al­low for a re­sponse to quell the vi­o­lence. But po­lice and state troop­ers in riot gear seemed un­pre­pared for the swells of armed pro­test­ers and their op­po­nents.

And then, amid the chaos, a car slammed into a crowd of anti-fas­cists and mem­bers of Black Lives Mat­ter, who were march­ing against the racist rally near the city’s down­town mall.

Wit­nesses de­scribed ut­ter may­hem as the Dodge ripped into marchers car­ry­ing signs and chant­ing, caught com­pletely un­aware.

“I heard the en­gine rev and saw de­bris fly­ing in the air. I felt a breeze as he ac­cel­er­ated,” said one Charlottesville woman, who was stand­ing on the side­walk near the group that was hit but re­quested anonymity. “Peo­ple were scream­ing, peo­ple were cry­ing. I counted ap­prox­i­mately six peo­ple down.

“I saw a lot of leg and foot in­juries. (One in­jury) looked like a com­pound frac­ture. You could see the fat com­ing out of her leg. At least two peo­ple un­con­scious. Just com­pletely out. Done,” she added.

Wit­ness Dan Miller said it ap­peared the car was trav­el­ing about 40 miles per hour when it slammed into about 20 peo­ple and two cars.

Video cap­tured what hap­pened next: the car sped in re­verse down sev­eral blocks, its tires screech­ing and its front bumper drag­ging along the ground as the driver tried to flee the scene of the car­nage.

One of the in­jured, Brian Hen­der­son, 40, of Charlottesville, walked out of the emer­gency room with a limp, his arm in a sling. “I made it,” he said. “I feel sorry for any­body who didn’t.”

In ad­di­tion to Fields, po­lice cuffed three oth­ers, in­clud­ing two from out of town.

Troy Du­ni­gan, 21, of Chat­tanooga, Tenn., faces a dis­or­derly con­duct charge while James O’Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Fla., was ar­rested and charged with car­ry­ing a con­cealed hand­gun. Ja­cob Smith, 21, of Louisa, Va., was booked on as­sault and bat­tery charges. It was not im­me­di­ately clear if the trio was among the counter-pro­test­ers or white su­prem­a­cists.

Few de­tails of the chop­per crash were re­leased, but au­thor­i­ties did iden­tify the vic­tims as Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pi­lot Berke M.M. Bates.

“Our state po­lice and law en­force­ment fam­ily at-large are mourn­ing this tragic out­come to an al­ready-chal­leng­ing day,” said Colonel W. Steven Fla­herty, Vir­ginia State Po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent.

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said he was dis­gusted that white na­tion­al­ists had come to his town — and blamed Trump for in­flam­ing racial prej­u­dices. “I’m not go­ing to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re see­ing in Amer­ica to­day right at the doorstep of the White House and the peo­ple around the Pres­i­dent,” he said.

Oren Se­gal, who di­rects the Anti-Defama­tion League’s Cen­ter on Ex­trem­ism, said mul­ti­ple white power groups were in­volved in the rally, in­clud­ing mem­bers of neo-Nazi or­ga­ni­za­tions, racist skin­head groups and Ku Klux Klan fac­tions.

The event, planned to take place in Eman­ci­pa­tion Park, was given the green light by U.S. District Judge Glen Con­rad af­ter Kessler, a right-wing blog­ger and rally or­ga­nizer, filed a law­suit against the city when of­fi­cials sought to change the lo­ca­tion.

Kessler sued Charlottesville over free speech vi­o­la­tions af­ter of­fi­cials or­dered the rally moved to a larger venue be­cause of safety con­cerns. He or­ga­nized the march in re­sponse to the re­moval of a statue of Lee.

As the vi­o­lence es­ca­lated on Sat­ur­day, politi­cians and lead­ers across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum voiced their con­cerns.

“The views fuel­ing the spec­ta­cle in Charlottesville are re­pug­nant. Let it only serve to unite Amer­i­cans against this kind of vile big­otry,” House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted.

First Lady Me­la­nia Trump is­sued a state­ment of her own. “Our coun­try en­cour­ages free­dom of speech, but let’s com­mu­ni­cate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from vi­o­lence. #Charlottesville,” she tweeted.

The clashes were the lat­est in a long string of con­flicts that have rocked Charlottesville since the city voted ear­lier this year to re­move the statue of Lee. In May, a torch-wield­ing group led by white su­prem­a­cist Spencer ral­lied around the statue. Last month, a North Carolin­abased KKK group clashed with hun­dreds of counter-pro­test­ers.

Kessler said this week that the rally Sat­ur­day is partly about the re­moval of Con­fed­er­ate sym­bols but also about free speech and “ad­vo­cat­ing for white peo­ple.”

“This is about an anti-white cli­mate within the Western world and the need for white peo­ple to have ad­vo­cacy like other groups do,” he said.

Peo­ple fly in the air as 20-year-old Neo-Nazi James Fields Jr. rams his sil­ver Dodge Chal­lenger into pro­test­ers demon­strat­ing against white na­tion­al­ist rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Sat­ur­day.

Dodge Chal­lenger driven by James Fields (inset) plows into crowd of pro­test­ers (top) and smashes into other ve­hi­cles (main photo). The car then backs up (above). Fields was caught af­ter his may­hem killed 1 per­son and in­jured 19.

Lt. H. Jay Cullen (l.) and Trooper-Pi­lot Berke M.M. Bates (r.) were killed in he­li­copter crash Sat­ur­day. Res­cue work­ers move a vic­tim on a gurney. Heather Heyer (r. and inset) fights des­per­ately for her life af­ter be­ing struck Sat­ur­day. Her last Face­book post read, “If you’re not out­raged, you’re not pay­ing at­ten­tion.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.