A series of violent street clashes between white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups and violent leftist groups, including Black Lives Matter, culminated in a car attack that killed one left-wing demonstrator and injured 19 others on Shabbos afternoon in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.
President Trump, while on a working vacation in New Jersey, was quick to publicly condemn all the factions responsible for the violence. However, Trump was quickly criticized by political opponents and the media for not singling out for condemnation the white supremacist and neo-Nazi hate groups which organized the pro-Confederacy rally.
Earlier that day, a rally of neo-Nazis and white supremacists at a public park scheduled for noon was cancelled by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe after widespread fighting broke out between those groups rallying to oppose the scheduled removal of a statue honoring Confederate Civil War hero, General Robert E. Lee, and leftist groups which claim that the statue and any other symbols of the Confederacy are offensive.
Even after the rally was officially canceled, the protesters did not disburse. About two hours into the fracas, a dark gray Dodge Charger driven by Nazi-sympathizer James Alex Fields Jr., 20, who had come from Ohio to participate in the pro-Confederacy rally, smashed his car into a group of opposing demonstrators.
Heather Heyer, 32, a paralegal at a local law firm, was killed. She worked in the firm’s bankruptcy operation and was described as having a “big heart.”
Felicia Correa, a longtime friend, said, “Heather died doing what she loved, standing up for people. I don’t see any difference in her or a soldier who died in war. She, in a sense, died for her country. She was there standing up for what was right.”
The 19 people who were injured are expected to make full recoveries, as are about a dozen other demonstrators from both sides who were injured during the earlier street fighting around the park near the statue.
Following the violent conflagration and car-ramming President Trump told reporters, “We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country.”
Trump did not take any questions before leaving the room, and when later asked by reporters to clarify what the president meant by “many sides,” a White House official said Trump “was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter protesters today.” Anti-Trump liberals and reporters from the mainstream media began a wild campaign against the president. They ignored the plain meaning of his original statement condemning all displays of bigotry and accused him unfairly of being reluctant to condemn alt-white bigotry and violence.
Later that day, President Trump tweeted, “We ALL must be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one! “We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST.”
IS THIS DOMESTIC TERRORISM?
That was still not sufficient to satisfy the anti-Trumpers who insinuated that he sympathizes with the bigots. Throughout the weekend, they mounted an intensive campaign insisting that Trump and the FBI specifically condemn the organizers of the rally and denounce the car attack as “domestic terrorism.”
As the labeling of Trump as a sympathizer of the neo-Nazis, the KKK and other white hate groups, with anti-Trump Republicans joined in the criticism, Trump sought to put the issue to rest on Monday afternoon, telling reporters at the White House, “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 that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.”
Ironically, the same critics demanding that Trump condemn right wing domestic terror appeared much less alarmed by the violence in Ferguson and Baltimore as well as the June 14 sniper attack by left-wing activist James Hodgkinson on Republican members of Congress while they were playing baseball in Alexandria, Virginia. The mainstream media went to great lengths to try to downplay the significance of Hodgkinson’s active political support for the Bernie Sanders campaign as a contributing factor to his motive for attempting to murder Republican lawmakers.
Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise was critically wounded in the attack, and almost didn’t make it, but some left-wing media commentators openly hinted that Scalise deserved to be shot because of his conservative political views.
The charge that Trump is a bigot is ridiculous on its face. Two of his children married Jews, one of them converted to do so. His grandchildren are Jewish. He always did business with Jews and enjoyed good relations with Jews and Blacks his entire life. In his business, he hired many Jews and in the White House he is surrounded by Jewish aides, conduct unbecoming a neo-Nazi KKK sympathizer.
SESSIONS DEFENDS TRUMP
Earlier Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to Trump’s defense, saying in an NBC news interview that his “very strong” original statement had no ambiguities, and “directly contradicted the ideology of hatred, violence, bigotry, racism and white supremacy. Those things must be condemned. They’re totally unacceptable. … He’s been firm on this from the beginning. He is appalled by this.”
The declaration by the attorney general showed no hint of any ill-feeling due to the president’s harsh criticism of Sessions last month for recusing himself from the Russia collusion investigation, which is now in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee also came to President Trump’s defense, saying that most of the harshest criticism of his statement on the violence in Charlottesville is coming from people who still “cannot get over the fact he is president.”
“If Donald Trump suddenly jumped on Marine One … [went] down to Charlottesville, walked into the jail where [the car rammer] was being held and shot him between the eyes, I guarantee you people would say he didn’t use the right caliber bullet,” Huckabee said.
The two-time candidate for the GOP presidential nomination insisted that Trump was “explicitly clear in condemning what happened and the fact is he will never satisfy those who hate his every word.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also agreed in a Fox News interview Monday that there was nothing wrong with Trump’s original statement Shabbos afternoon, arguing that his comments were not “particularly inappropriate or particularly weak.”
Trump was clearly calling bigotry and violence “un-American,” Gingrich said “But clearly there was a hunger for him to use the specific phrases about white supremacists and about the KKK and about Nazis. He came back today, he said every single thing that his critics on the left want. So now you have crowds that are saying ‘well, he didn’t say it soon enough.’ I just want to suggest to you that [they are part of] an anti-Trump movement in this country that will never, ever be satisfied as long as he’s president.”
GINGRICH CALLS RIGHT WING RACISTS “GENUINELY CRAZY”
With regard to the underlying source of the violence in Charlottesville, Gingrich said, “I think the gap in the country right now is that deep and that real. I think the people on the left have a radically different vision of America’s future than traditional Americans. And I think there’s a small element on the right, which has been there for a long time, which is genuinely crazy.
“And let me say this, as a historian, Nazism was an anti-Christian, totalitarian, anti-Semitic evil. Any person who tells you that they are a neo-Nazi is telling you they’re signing up for evil.”
Gingrich reminded Trump’s critics that the president had already put himself on record specifically condemning the hate groups and their leaders. “Remember, it’s Donald Trump who, last year, in the campaign, repudiated David Duke, he repudiated the KKK and in his inaugural, he said ‘all of us bleed the same color’ and ‘to be racist is to be un-American,’” Gingrich added.
There was speculation as to why Trump’s initial statement condemning the violence was non-specific. White House sources told the Washington Post that when Trump was first briefed on the violence in Charlottesville, he was told that groups from both the left and the right were involved, leading to his decision to condemn all the “many groups” involved rather than just the white supremacists. Once he was on the record with the initial statement, which he still thought was accurate, he was reluctant to be seen giving in to liberal pressure to conform to their ideas of political correctness on the issue.
Trump was handicapped because some of his top aides were not with him. For example, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was not present or available to reporters when Trump made the statement at the start of a poorly organized bill signing ceremony held in a ballroom at his golf club, where he is staying while the White House is being renovated.
After making the statement, he started to leave, as reporters shouted questions at him, asking if he would condemn white supremacy. Trump then realized he had yet to sign the legislation, so he returned to a small desk to do so. He then left a second time, without answering the questions from the reporters.
One of the first congressional Republicans to comment publicly on the incident was Senator Ted Cruz. He called not only for a federal investigation but also for the Justice Department to designate the car-ramming incident an act of “domestic terrorism.”
DEMOCRATS EAGER TO DEMONIZE THE RIGHT
The Justice Department faced questions from the media about why it took Attorney General Jeff Sessions seven hours to announce that he was launching a hate-crime investigation into the deadly incident. In addition to looking at the car’s driver, agents from the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia will investigate whether others were involved in planning the episode.
Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer placed the blame for the attack “right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president.” Signer had been one of those Democrats who had publicly urged members of the Electoral College pledged to Trump to violate their oath and block the certification of his clear 2016 electoral victory. He says that Trump and those around him bear a measure of responsibility for the resurgence of the white supremacists, whom he blames for the violence in his city. “Look, I think some of this speaks for itself. We saw the campaign that they ran, we saw the folks they surround themselves, we saw what David Duke, you know, people like that say about the president,” Signer claimed.
In an interview with Sean Hannity Monday night on Fox News, Mike Huckabee cited critics like Signer, who are willing to go to any lengths to try to discredit Trump as “irrational” and borderline “insane. “
“[Criticism like] this is no longer an attempt to evaluate what they think is wrong with Donald Trump’s presidency. This is an attempt at a coup d’etat to get rid of the duly elected president of the United States,” Huckabee declared.
Governor McAuliffe told a news conference, “I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple: go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you.
“You came here today to hurt people, and you did hurt people. My message is clear: we are stronger than you. You have made our commonwealth stronger. You will not succeed. There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America.”
The next morning, McAuliffe attended a prayer service at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church and brought the congregation to its feet when he condemned from the pulpit “the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who came to our state yesterday. You pretend you’re patriots. You are not patriots,” he said. “You are dividers.”
But McAuliffe did not criticize the left-wing agitators who took advantage of the situation to carry out violent attacks on the pro-Confederacy supporters in Charlottesville.
On Sunday, the leaders of seven civil rights and religious groups responded to the attack, urging Trump to issue a stronger condemnation of the white supremacists and hate groups that have endorsed him. Some black and Muslim group leaders also urged him to fire his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, and Bannon’s allies in the White House, such as Dr. Sebastion Gorka, whom they accuse of being supporters of white supremacy and anti-Semitic groups.
Before joining the Trump campaign last summer, Bannon ran the right-wing Breitbart News website, and was accused of using it as a public forum for white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideas. Bannon’s defenders, including religious Jews who worked with him at Breitbart, vigorously deny that he harbors any anti-Semitic tendencies and supports right wing extremists. They also vouch for Gorka.
Thomas Lifson the founder and publisher of the American Thinker web site, was also not happy that Trump’s original condemnation of the hate groups which organized the pro-Confederacy rally in Charlottesville did not specifically condemn their “rancid ideology.” But he also thinks that it is unfair for Trump’s critics to demand that “he must jump through the hoops that are being held up for him by the media” in order to prove once more that he is not catering to racists.
Lifson also condemns the mainstream media’s attempts to portray Trump as a Nazi. He says the accusations is “so deranged that anyone making the comparison is clearly a nut. Nazis do not marry off their favorite daughter to an orthodox Jew, watch her convert, and produce Jewish grandchildren.”
It is similarly irrational to believe that Trump would elevate Steve Bannon to the position of top White House strategist if he thought for a moment that Bannon is an anti-Semite, as Trump’s critics claim.
Bannon his has been keeping a low profile at the White House while urging Trump to follow his “America First” vision of foreign policy. This has put Bannon in conflict with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, who have adopted a more traditional foreign policy approach.
Their most recent clash was over the firing by McMaster of three senior staff members on the National Security Council who took their orders from Bannon. McMaster then came under harsh criticism from Breitbart and other right-wing opinion makers. They accused him of promoting a globalist foreign policy, protecting Obama holdovers still in the government who are working to obstruct Trump’s agenda, and promoting anti-Israel policies.
Bannon lost his direct access to President Trump in the recent re-organization of the White House that now requires him to ask chief of staff John Kelly for face time with the president. Bannon’s enemies are circulating stories that Trump blames him for leaks to the media, including the attacks on McMaster, which have bedeviled his administration. Yet Bannon has survived previous Trump White House shake-ups as well as serious disagreements with other senior staff and even Trump family members.
WHITE HOUSE REACTION TEAM SWINGS INTO ACTION
Vice President Mike Pence and other spokesmen for the administration made several statements to reporters and on national television on Sunday explaining that President Trump’s initial remarks were directed at all of the forces of bigotry and intolerance involved, including those hate groups that originally planned the protest demonstration in Charlottesville.
During a news conference in Cartagena, Colombia, Vice President Pence said, “We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK. These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”
National security adviser H.R. McMaster told NBC that Trump was committed “to bring all Americans together. I’m sure you will hear more from the president about this,” he said, adding that it “ought to be clear to all Americans” that Trump’s comments about bigotry and hatred included white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
McMaster told ABC that the president’s statement “called out anyone, anyone who is responsible for fomenting this kind of bigotry, hatred, racism and violence.”
Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and adviser, wrote on Twitter: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazis.”
Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, defended the president on CNN for not naming the groups involved and instead focusing on an overarching call for increased tolerance on all sides.
Bossert said that people “on both sides” showed up in Charlottesville “looking for trouble” and that he wouldn’t assign blame for the death of Ms. Heyer on either group, although he said the president would like to see “swift justice” for the victim.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo told CBS News that the president was “frankly, pretty unambiguous” in his initial response to the violence in Charlottesville. The CIA director added: “When someone marches with a Nazi flag, that is unacceptable, but I think that’s what the president’s saying.”
The White House issued a brief statement on Sunday, explicitly elaborating on Trump’s earlier remarks. “Of course, that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups,” the statement declared. But Trump’s critics wouldn’t let go of the gift they thought they were handed and kept up their bashing of him.
MORE ACCURATE LANGUAGE NEEDED TO DESCRIBE HATE GROUPS
There is an advantage to citing the hate groups by name because it is misleading to the public and unfair to lump them together with legitimate, conservative right wing political groups whose members are as opposed to violence and bigotry as any constitutional rights advocates on the left.
Anyone who advocates violence and bigotry and defies the rule of law should not be referred to as an “extreme” member of the right wing or the left-wing. That is an insult to real conservatives and liberals. Bigots and racists do not deserve that kind of recognition. They are not part of the legitimate national political debate, and suggesting that they are on the spectrum of respectable political opinion is as misleading as the mainstream media characterizing suicide bombers with the euphemism of “extremists” rather than calling them terrorists.
In his American Thinker essay, Lifson says that the media’s demands that Trump condemn the hate groups by name has a flip side. That is the media’s refusal in Charlottesville and at previous race-related riots in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland, to condemn Black Lives Matter and other minority rights groups for their rhetoric inciting violence against their opponents or the police.
Lifson also notes that news coverage tends to minimize the significance of that violence, because the media treats members of any class self-identified as victims of society as implicitly justified in striking back destructively. The favored media treatment also implies that their self-proclaimed victimhood status gives them a right to violate the law or hurt others. That same pattern was evident in the mainstream media’s news coverage over the weekend in Charlottesville.
SOME REPUBLICANS JOIN IN DEMANDING MORE FROM TRUMP
Speaking on CNN, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner urged the president to speak out directly on “this white supremacism, white nationalism evil” with the same kind of conviction that he has had in “naming terrorism around the globe as evil.”
Anti-Trump Senator Lindsey Graham, told Fox News that Trump needs to “correct the record here.”
“These groups seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump in the White House, and I would urge the president to dissuade that,” Graham said.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah wrote online in response to the violence in Charlottesville that “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
The infamous former White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, said in an ABC interview on Sunday that Trump “needed to be much harsher as it related to the white supremacists and the nature of that.”
THERE WAS PLENTY OF VIOLENCE FROM BOTH SIDES
The under-reported details of the fighting before the rally at the park was cancelled by Governor McAuliffe suggests that there was plenty of evidence to justify Trump’s condemnation of both sides. There also appears to be reason to question why McAuliffe and his state officials on the scene did not order police to intervene earlier to halt the street violence.
The mostly white male protesters from the hate groups waved Confederate flags and screamed racist and anti-Semitic slurs at the anti-Confederacy protesters, who seemed determined to stop the white supremacist demonstration.
“No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” the left-wingers chanted, while holding “Black Lives Matter” signs and placards calling for equality and love.
Both sides wielded sticks and shields and did not hesitate to use them. By midmorning, fists and faces had been bloodied. When members of the pro-Confederacy groups charged, their opponents fought back, tossing balloons filled with paint and spraying stinging chemicals into the faces of their adversaries.
In covering previous Black Lives Matter and other demonstrations which turned violent, such as the riots in Baltimore in April 2015, the mainstream media has studiously downplayed the contempt for law and order by left wing activists, and the tolerance for such violence by elected officials.
CONDEMNING THE LEGACY OF THE CONFEDERACY
The protest was against the recent decision by Charlottesville city officials to remove the statue of General Lee, which was completed in 1924. Most liberals and black activists object to the statue and all other symbols of the Confederacy as glorifications of the institution of slavery and the concept of white supremacy. For the same reason, the park containing the statue, which had been known as Lee Park, was recently renamed Emancipation Park.
By 2015 there were movements in several other Southern states, including South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana, to remove their monuments to the Confederacy and end the use of the Confederate flag. That same year, the Lee statue in Charlottesville was spray-painted by a vandal with the words “Black Lives Matter.” Last year, the City Council appointed a committee, at the behest of Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy, which ultimately decided to order the removal of the statue.
Most people who support leaving such monuments and symbols in place deny any racist motivations. They cite the constructive role they played in helping to reunite the country and heal its deep divisions during the decades following the Civil War. The monuments also honor the courage and bravery of soldiers from the South who fought, in good faith, for their states and to protect their way of life.
In his comments on Charlottesville on Fox News, Gingrich cited the contention of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s that eliminating Confederate symbols does a disservice to our children by trying to sanitize America’s history and preventing them from learning its lessons.
Ironically, by insisting on the removal of such symbols, anti-Confederacy activists have re-opened those wounds in states and communities across the South, and given the racist organizations they oppose a popular cause they can use to help rally support. The “Unite the Right” rally was the largest alt-right event in recent years. It attracted hundreds of members and sympathizers of white supremacy, Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis groups from nearby states.
OPPOSING FORCES GATHERED
The originally planned demonstration called for Shabbos at noon under the title of “Unite the Right” had been well-publicized.
The night before the rally, participants held a torchlight march through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville in protest of the school’s president and other local officials.
The opposing leftist groups, including Black Lives Matter and Showing Up for Racial Justice, also had plenty of time to organize their response. The left-wing counter-protesters included black-clad, helmet-wearing members of a group known as antifa, which is known for its use of violence. The anti-Confederacy demonstrators gathered at the historically black First Baptist Church at around 8 a.m. Shabbos morning for a march downtown toward the park with the Lee statue. At about the same time, camouflage-clad wing militia members approached the park from another direction, setting up the initial round of violence.
WAS THIS MCAULIFFE’S PLAN TO SABOTAGE THE RALLY?
Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security, was watching the events around the park from a command post on the sixth floor of a nearby bank building, while keeping in touch with Governor McAuliffe. He later compared the sporadic fights that broke out initially around Emancipation Park to the skirmishes in a hockey game.
The clashes quickly intensified. Moran saw people throwing water bottles at each other, but many did not contain water. Some used pepper spray, while others began throwing smoke bombs. Then the close quarters clubbing began in earnest.
Some of the black clergy and their people supporting the anti-Confederacy groups retreated and sought refuge in a nearby restaurant while the fighting continued around them. The large police presence stationed in the park was apparently under orders not to intervene.
At 11:22 a.m. the situation had become so violent that Moran called Governor McAuliffe to ask him to declare a state of emergency. This gave McAuliffe the pretext he had wanted to cancel the court-approved permit for the rally which Jason Kessler, the organizer of the rally, had obtained by citing constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
Only then did the waiting police spring into action, announcing on loudspeakers that the gathering was an unlawful assembly, and calling for the crowd to disperse, cutting off the rally on the pretext of public safety before it could officially begin.
Asked later why police did not intervene to halt the violence earlier, Moran hinted that the outcome had been governor’s strategy from the beginning. “It was a volatile situation and its unfortunate people resorted to violence. But from our plan, to ensure the safety of our citizens and property, it went extremely well.”
A similar strategy had been used recently by a university in California It cancelled a scheduled speech by right wing columnist Anne Coulter on campus on the basis of fears that campus police would be unable to protect Coulter from attacks by left wing hooligans
WHY DID THE POLICE IGNORE THE INITIAL VIOLENCE?
A spokesman for the Virginia State Police claimed that they were doing their job. “It may have looked like a lot of our folks were standing around, but there were other troopers and law enforcement officers who were responding to incidents as they arose,”
But even some leftist protesters present said they were deeply troubled by the initial refusal of the police to intervene to separate the groups and stop the violence before the state of emergency was declared. Brittany Caine-Conley, one of the church members participating, told the New York Times, “There was no police presence. We were watching people punch each other; people were bleeding all the while police were inside of barricades at the park, watching. It was essentially just brawling on the street and community members trying to protect each other.”
Virginia authorities exacerbated the violence by failing to keep the two groups of protesters separate. Kessler said his group had “networked with law enforcement officials” months ago on a plan for maintaining safety at the rally which the police did not follow. He also called the police who were there “underequipped for the situation.”
Governor McAuliffe was sensitive to criticism that he had permitted police to ignore the early violence. He argued that the officers had done “great work” in a “very delicate situation” because many of the demonstrators were armed. Regarding the fatal car attack on anti-Confederacy demonstrators in the street by Nazi-sympathizer James Fields, McAuliffe said, “You can’t stop some crazy guy who came here from Ohio and used his car as a weapon. He is a terrorist.”
DEATH BY AUTO
Cell phone videos show Fields deliberately driving his dark gray 2010 Dodge Charger into demonstrators at the intersection of Fourth and Water streets, about four blocks from the park, and then driving away from the scene.
Eyewitness Brennan Gilmore described it as “very clearly intentional. From the far end of the street [the car] accelerated, slowed down right before the crowd and then slammed on the gas through the crowd, sending bodies flying. And then it reversed back into the street, dragging bodies and clothes.”
Another eyewitness told a British newspaper, “Yeah, it was intentional. About 40 miles an hour, hit about 15-20 people, crashed into the two cars in front of it, and then backed up and sped away while cops were standing on the side of the road and didn’t do anything.”
Another video of the incident begins with a sedan and a minivan rolling to a stop in a road packed with demonstrators. Suddenly, the Dodge Charger driven by Fields smashes into the back of the sedan, shoving both cars into the crowd as bodies are launched through the air. The Dodge then rapidly reverses direction, hitting yet more people.
Media attention centered on the car attack rather than the earlier violence, but American news reports ignored eyewitness accounts quoted by the British report that moments before Fields plowed into the crowd, a leftist counter-protester had thrown a rock at his car. This caused Fields to turn the car around and head back towards the crowd of protesters in the street.
Some media reports included as part of the death toll two Virginia State police officers, Berke M.M. Bates and H. Jay Cullen. They were killed in the accidental crash of their Bell 407 helicopter while they were engaged in aerial surveillance on the outskirts of town rather than over the area of disturbance in downtown Charlottesville.
“Jay Cullen had been flying me around for three and a half years,” Governor McAuliffe said. Before joining the aviation unit, Bates had been a member of the state trooper team that guards the governor and his family. “Berke was part of my executive protection unit. He was part of my family. The man lived with me 24-7,” McAuliffe said.
PROFILE OF A NAZI-OBSESSED ATTACKER
After driving away, Fields abandoned the heavily damaged Dodge, and was arrested shortly thereafter by local police. He has been charged with second-degree murder, hit and run driving, and other crimes related to the attack. That night, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal Justice Department would initiate a civil rights investigation into the incident. He was arraigned at a court hearing on Monday and denied bail.
Sessions said that the attack by Fields “does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute.” He added that the investigation will advance towards the most serious charges that can be brought because this is unequivocally an unacceptable, evil attack.”
Fields’ last official place of residence was in Maumee, Ohio, about 15 miles southwest of Toledo.
He had been working recently as a security guard, but his employer, a company called Securitas, said that he had been fired.
He had been raised in northern Kentucky by his single mother, Samantha Bloom, who is a paraplegic. His father was killed by a drunk driver, five months before James Fields was born.
Family members and acquaintances described him as quiet and often solitary. His history and social studies teacher at Randall K. Cooper High School in Kentucky, Derek Weimer, recalled Fields as an average student who had written a detailed research paper about the Nazi military during World War II. He said Fields showed an unhealthy fascination with Nazism and idealization of Hitler and began expressing racist views as early as ninth grade.
“He had white supremacist views. He really believed in that stuff,” Wiemar said.
The teacher said Fields had told him that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and prescribed an anti-psychotic medication before he entered high school. Wiemer claimed that he tried to use historical facts rather than just opinions to steer Fields away from his infatuation with the Nazis, but to no avail.
“This was something that was growing in him,” Weimer said. “I admit I failed. I tried my best. But this is definitely a teachable moment and something we need to be vigilant about, because this stuff is tearing up our country.”
Accounts given by several classmates of Fields in high school confirmed his strongly pro-Nazi feelings.
His teacher lost track of Fields after he graduated high school and was surprised to learn that Fields joined the Army in the August 2015, because he had been turned down by the military earlier. Fields was released from active duty in December for failing to meet training standards, according to a Department of Defense spokesman.
HIS MOTHER SAID SHE TOLD HIM TO BE CAREFUL
Fields’ mother told The Associated Press that she didn’t talk to him about his political views. He had mentioned to her that he was going to a rally, but Samantha Bloom said they never discussed the details.
“I didn’t know it was white supremacists,” she said. “I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a supremacist.”
She said she had received a text from her son on Friday letting her know that he had left his cat in her apartment so that he could attend an “alt-right rally in Virginia.”
“I told him to be careful,” Bloom said. “[And] if they’re going to rally to make sure he’s doing it peacefully.”
Ohio police records show that from 2010 to 2013, Fields’ wheelchair-bound mother called 911 as many as nine times to ask for help because her son had attacked her, hit her in the head or threatened her with a knife.
Fields was identified in news photos taken in Charlottesville earlier on the day of the attack wearing an unofficial hate group uniform, which consisted of a white polo shirt, baggy khakis and sunglasses. He was holding the black symbol of a group called Vanguard America, which claims to be the “Face of American Fascism.” In a statement issued motzoei Shabbos, Vanguard America denied any connection to Fields and explained the photograph by saying that its symbol was “freely handed out” to anyone who had come to Charlottesville for the right-wing rally.
Fields suffered a tragic childhood and there are indications of possible mental instability. But deliberately driving his car into a group of pedestrians, killing one and injuring 19 others, and then fleeing the scene, is murder, pure and simple. It must be condemned, regardless of any provocation or extenuating circumstances.
With regard to Field’s well-documented pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic beliefs, there can be no sympathy for a supporter of the evil beasts who murdered six million Jewish people during World War II. Fields is not a victim, and he is not innocent. He must be tried and punished by the law for his crime, and there are all indications that he will be. He deserves to be removed from society, for his guilt and for our own safety.
The main unanswered questions are whether Fields had any accomplices in planning or carrying out the car attack, and whether he acted under the direction of a hate group involved in the Charlottesville violence. The multiple investigations now underway should provide the answers.
RALLY ORGANIZER STILL BEING PURSUED
The pursuit of “domestic terrorists” by anti-Confederacy vigilantes in Charlottesville continued on Sunday, when Jason Kessler tried to hold a news conference near the Charlottesville City Hall. He was denied his right to free speech by anti-Confederacy activists.
A cordon of police in riot gear and others equipped with sniper rifles had been stationed in the area, but they did nothing as about 100 protesters shouted Kessler down before he could utter a word that was audible to the news microphones.
“Murderer,” the activists screamed.
A few protesters broke through the line of reporters and headed toward Kessler. A man wearing a plaid shirt, later identified as Jeff Winder, punched Kessler, putting an end to the press conference, and making Winder into an instant left-wing media hero who proudly told reporters, “Free speech does not protect hate speech.”
Winder accused Kessler of “endangering the lives of people of color and endangering other lives in my community.” But that still did not give Winder the legal right to use violence to silence even an objectionable person like Kessler, who retains his rights as citizen in a free society.
For his own protection, Charlottesville police then hustled Kessler into City Hall. When Kessler left twenty minutes later in a marked police SUV, a leftist activist was still chasing after him yelling, “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
Kessler and those who follow him do not deserve any sympathy. The bigotry and hatred of the white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis is directed equally at the Jewish people as it is at blacks and other religious and minority groups.
The same is true of the opposing groups which claim the right of aggrieved minorities to use violence indiscriminately as well. Their fashionable liberal anti-Zionism is a thin façade camouflaging the age-old hatred of the Jewish people.
A WARNING AGAINST COMPLACENCY
While we are fortunate that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States remain isolated, there is still a large number of bigots in America who hate and want to do harm to Jews. They continue to spread the classic anti-Semitic lies and false accusations, transmitting the virus of prejudice from generation to generation, including young people like James Fields.
Jews dare not be complacent in the security of America. The widespread acceptance for slandering and targeting Jews throughout Europe today should serve a warning. Such persecution can happen here, chas v’shalom. If it does, it is likely that members of the evil groups on both sides of the violence in Charlottesville will have contributed to it.
We must remember that we are in golus, with people such as the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the other hate groups which gathered in Charlottesville last Shabbos are out there aiming for us. Let us pray that Hashem keep us safe.