James Alex Fields Jr – the 20-year-old white supremacist who killed anti-fascist protester Heather Heyer in August – will face the far steeper charge of first-degree murder in his upcoming trial. He had previously only been charged with second-degree murder.
Fields participated alongside Vanguard America at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, which brought together a loose constellation of white supremacists, neo-nazis, and neo-confederates. The rally attracted wide-spread condemnation from around the political spectrum in August, though notably Trump remarked that there were “very fine people” who participated.
Far from your standard conservative protest, the rally featured participants chanting “blood and soil” as well as “Jews will not replace us.”
Hayer, who was 32 at the time of her murder, joined in the anti-racist counter-demonstration. Fields drove a car into a group of anti-racists, killing Hayer.
In a heart-wrenching story, The Daily Beast reported that Hayer’s mother had to bury her daughter’s remains at a “completely protected” and unmarked location in order to ensure that neo-nazis cannot deface her resting place.
Donald Trump’s equivocation led some political leaders to call for his impeachment. The deeply unpopular president’s flirtation with the far-right has contributed to the reemergence of neo-fascists, who feel more emboldened today than at any other point in recent history.
A request for a follow-up rally in 2018 has been denied by Charlottesville authorities.