James Fields, Jr., the white supremacist who murdered Heather Heyer and injured dozens of others driving his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017 has received a life sentence in federal prison.
Prosecutors had argued that Mr. Fields’s racist, anti-Semitic beliefs motivated his decision to attend the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and use his automobile in an act of domestic terrorism. Thomas T. Cullen, the United States attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said after hearing the sentence that the case set a precedent for future instances of domestic terrorism.
Mr. Fields was one of hundreds of young white supremacists who swarmed Charlottesville in August 2017, marching with tiki torches shouting “The Jews will not replace us.”
President Trump’s subsequent assertion that bad actors on “many sides’ were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville was reviled by millions of Americans. Yet, it resonated. Trump did ultimately call Fields a ‘murderer’ and a ‘disgrace’.
The Atlantic wrote in August 2018:
A year after white nationalists in Charlottesville chanted, “You will not replace us!,” their message has been taken up and amplified by Fox News personalities. Tucker Carlson tells his audience that “Latin American countries are changing election outcomes here by forcing demographic change on this country.” Laura Ingraham says that “the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” because of “massive demographic changes” as a result of “both illegal and sometimes legal immigration that progressives love.” They echo the white-nationalist claim that America is at risk because the nation is growing more diverse, an argument that treats the mere presence of nonwhite people, citizen or noncitizen, as an existential threat to the country. White nationalists like Cantwell are cheered to hear their beliefs championed on Fox. Cantwell wrote last year that Carlson “is basically telling white America to prepare for war as directly as he can get away with while remaining on Fox News.”
FOX News is stoking white panic and so is Donald Trump. a president who visibly delights in exploiting fear, aided by a right-wing media infrastructure that has come to see it as a ratings strategy. Trump is very visibly and with great advance warning, launching ICE raids on Sunday, targeting migrants across America.
“It starts on Sunday and they’re going to take people out and they’re going bring them back to their countries, or they’re going to take criminals out and put them in prison, or they put them in prison in the country they came from,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Friday. “We’re focused on criminals as much as we can.”
Heather Heyer, 32, was a paralegal in Charlottesville, “a very strong woman” who stood up against “any type of discrimination,” according to Alfred A. Wilson, a manager at the law firm where she worked.
Heather’s mother Susan Bro has become a vocal advocate against racism, and also in challenging the FBI and other government agencies to take domestic terrorism more seriously.
“I have been given a huge platform … because I’m white, and many black parents lose their children, many Muslim parents lose their children, Jewish parents lose their children, and nobody pays attention. And because we have this myth of the sacredness of the white female, I’ve been given a platform, so I’m going to use that platform to keep drawing attention back to where the issues are,” Susan Bro testified at a May 2019 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform about the reporting of hate crimes.
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia have joined U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii to introduce the Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault and Threats to Equality Act to improve hate crime reporting and expand support for victims of hate crimes. Khalid Jabara, an immigrant from Lebanon was gunned down by his own neighbor in Tulsa, Okla about three years ago.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic Rep. Donald Beyer of Virginia and Republican Rep. Pete Olson of Texas introduced a companion bill.
FBI reports indicate that hate crimes jumped 17 percent in 2017, although experts warn that hate crimes are grossly undercounted. In the latest FBI report, 87 percent of law enforcement agencies did not submit any hate crime information, wrote the Richmond Free Press. At least 92 cities with more than 100,000 residents — including cities like Miami and Las Vegas — either did not report any hate crime data to the FBI or reported zero hate crimes.
Susan Bro Speaker
In a note of sad irony, Susan Bro, now President of the Heather Heyer Foundation, is a speaker advocating for diversity, social justice and equal rights for all through positive and peaceful change.— at a speaker’s fee beyond her wildest dreams. From her bio page:
Susan formed the HHF to help provide scholarships for students seeking degrees or certifications in careers that work with social justice issues, such as paralegals, social workers, lawyers, educators, and other individuals who want to make positive social change. Susan serves as the foundation president and board chair.
Based on her daughter’s motto, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention,” Susan brings Heather’s legacy alive by sharing a positive, non-violent message and call-to-action that inspires others to fight for social justice and civil rights issues while encouraging dialogue and understanding in our communities.