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Charlottesville: Neo-Nazi gets 2nd life sentence for 2017 attack

Published: July 16, 2019
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Source: aljazeera.com

A Virginia state judge on Monday sentenced a self-professed neo-Nazi to a second life prison term for killing a demonstrator when he drove his car into a crowd protesting against white supremacists in Charlottesville two years ago.

Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard Moore sentenced James Alex Fields Jr, 22, to life plus 419 years, as recommended by the jury that found him guilty last December of murder plus eight counts of malicious wounding and a hit-and-run offence.

"Mr Fields, you deserve the sentence the jury gave. What you did was an act of terror," Moore said.

Fields, who appeared in court on Monday in striped prison garb, has already received a separate life sentence without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty in March to federal hate-crime charges stemming from the violence in Charlottesville at Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017.

Heather Heyer, 32, one of the counterdemonstrators, was killed in the attack.

Unite the Right 2017

Unite the Right, which was organised to oppose Charlottesville's decision to remove a Confederate statue, was the largest white nationalist rally in the United States in recent years. 

Fields drove to Virginia from his home in Maumee, Ohio, to support the white nationalists.

During the rally, the then-21-year-old had been photographed marching with Vanguard America, a neo-Nazi group, during the rally. Throughout the day, rally participants clashed with community members, anti-racists and anti-fascists across the city.

The rally brought out thousands of supporters of the alt-right, a loosely-knit coalition of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis.

After the rally, as a large group of counterprotesters marched through Charlottesville singing and laughing, Fields stopped his car, backed up, then sped into the crowd, according to testimony from witnesses and video surveillance shown to jurors during the trial.

week in pictures
A photo of Heather Heyer, who was killed during a white nationalist rally, sits on the ground at a memorial the day her life was celebrated at the Paramount Theater, in Charlottesville, Virginia [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo] 

Following the 2017 Unite the Right rally, President Donald Trump inflamed tensions even further when he said "both sides" were to blame, a comment some saw as a refusal to condemn racism.

Heyer was among the 18 people killed by white supremacists in the US in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The number of hate crime also grew by 17 percent, according to the FBI

White nationalist, neo-Nazi and far-right groups that took to the streets in Charlottesville saw permits for a spate of subsequent public events pulled or denied while hosting services, social media outlets and tech companies cracked down on far-right individuals and groups.

Counterprotesters far outnumbered white nationalists at the 2018 United the Right rally held in Washington, DC.

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The self-described neo-Nazi who killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer when he rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters after a 2017 white supremacist rally was sentenced to life in prison by a federal judge in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Friday.

The chief of police in Charlottesville, Va., stepped down on Monday, two weeks after the release of a sharply critical report about the department’s failure to contain violence this summer between white supremacists and counterprotesters, which left one demonstrator dead and dozens injured.

A state of emergency has been declared around Charlottesville, Virginia, amid clashes between “Unite the Right” white nationalist demonstrators and “counterprotesters,” including the presence of Antifa.

At least one person has been killed and 19 injured after a car has ran into protesters at the Charlottesville protests between Unite the Right and counter demonstrators. RT journalist on the scene said that there were “extremely heavy injuries” sustained during the incident.

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