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charlottesville aftermath
December 11, 2018

Self-proclaimed neo-Nazi James Fields, 21, was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday after driving his car into a group of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last year.

The sentencing comes days after Fields was convicted of first-degree murder for killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer in the crash, reports The Washington Post. Fields also hit dozens of others protesting against the "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last August, for which a jury quickly convicted him of murder and nine other charges.

Fields' trial started Nov. 26, and it took a jury just seven hours to reach its verdict after the trial concluded Friday. The first-degree murder charge amounted to life in prison at Tuesday's sentencing, and his counts of malicious wounding and leaving the crash scene totaled another 419 years in jail, per The Daily Beast. He also has to pay $480,000 in fines.

After Heyer's murder, her mother Susan Bro became a vocal protester against hate and racism. Bro testified Monday that Fields "tried to silence" Heyer at the rally last year, but Bro said she "refuse[s] to allow that." Several other victims gave impact statements throughout the trial, and you can read about them at The Daily Beast. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 6, 2018

A few days after a group of white nationalists rallied violently against removing Confederate statues in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs chief diversity officer proposed issuing a statement emphasizing that the VA forcefully condemns such a "repugnant display of hate and bigotry by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan," The Washington Post reported Wednesday night, citing emails obtained by the group American Oversight via FOIA request. The VA's chief communications official, John Ullyot, shot her down.

Ullyot is a political appointee of President Trump and veteran of his presidential campaign, and Georgia Coffey was the deputy assistant secretary for diversity and inclusion. Trump had declined to condemn the white supremacist protesters and blamed "many sides" for the violence that ensued, peaking with a white supremacist killing a couterprotester with a car. David Shulkin, the VA secretary at the time, had appeared to break with Trump, saying on Aug. 16 that he was "outraged" by the actions of the white nationalists.

On Aug. 17, Coffey emailed VA public affairs with a draft of her statement, saying a forceful condemnation was necessary because the VA workforce, which is 40 percent minorities, was unsettled by the Charlottesville violence. Ullyot said that after consulting with Shulkin, he wanted Coffey to remove some of the more incendiary language. Coffey wrote back that his edits would likely "dilute my message and fail to convey the sense of condemnation that I hope we all feel." She published the unedited statement under her own name in her office's monthly VA newsletter; VA officials removed it and reprimanded her, and she resigned soon afterward.

An anonymous person familiar with the dispute told the Post that "Ullyot was enforcing a directive from the White House, where officials were scrambling to contain the fallout from Trump's comments." A VA spokesman said there was no such directive from the White House. Read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

November 26, 2018

Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of James Fields, the self-described neo-Nazi accused of driving his Dodge Challenger into a group of counterprotesters and killing Heather Heyer at last year's Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, reports CNN.

Heyer, 32, attended the event to speak out against white supremacists who were rallying in Charlottesville. Fields is charged with first-degree murder, as well as numerous accounts of malicious wounding. Fields' defense team has asked to move the trial out of Charlottesville, saying Fields "has come to symbolize the community trauma" suffered during the violent rally so it will be impossible to find objective jurors. Prosecutors say the pretrial publicity doesn't justify a change of venue. Harold Maass

May 2, 2018

On Tuesday, a jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, convicted white supremacist Jacob Scott Goodwin of malicious wounding for the brutal beating of a black counterprotester at last summer's "Unite the Right" white nationalist rally. The jurors recommended that Goodwin, 23, get handed 10 years in prison at his sentencing hearing on Aug. 23, with an option to suspend some of that time plus a $20,000 fine. Goodwin and four other white nationalists beat DeAndre Harris, 20, in a parking garage, leaving Harris with a spinal injury, broken arm, and serious head lacerations.

In March, a separate jury acquitted Harris of misdemeanor assault and battery charges filed by another white supremacist who participated in the beating, Harold Crews. Three other alleged Harris assailants — Alex Michael Ramos, Daniel Borden, and Tyler Watkins Davis — also face trial through the summer. In court, Goodwin testified that he shoved Harris down and kicked him when he tried to get up in self-defense, explaining that he was scared and "trying to neutralize a threat." Prosecutor Nina-Alice Antony noted that Goodwin "was outfitted for battle" with "large goggles, boots. He's got a full body shield."

Police arrested Goodwin about two months after the Charlottesville rally, after columnist Shuan King and other Black Lives Matters supporters tracked him down by analyzing the footage of the beating. He wore neo-Nazi symbols to the trial. King celebrated the conviction on Twitter. Peter Weber

December 19, 2017

The chief of police in Charlottesville, Virginia, announced on Monday he is retiring, following months of criticism and the release earlier this month of an unfavorable independent report focusing on the way he handled the Unite the Right white supremacist rally in August.

During the rally, Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man plowed his car into a group of counter-protesters. In a statement, Police Chief Alfred Thomas said he "will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to protect and serve a community I love so dearly." Thomas was made police chief in April 2016.

A 220-page report issued this month found that Thomas and city officials made numerous mistakes, not only on the day of the Unite the Right rally but also in the months leading up to it, NPR reports. His response to the chaos that unfolded was "slow-footed," the report said, and he made officers who spoke to investigators afraid of retaliation. His attorney denied this, as well as claims that he deleted text messages relevant to the investigation. Catherine Garcia

September 15, 2017

On Tuesday night, Congress sent President Trump a joint resolution that urged him to "speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy," and "use all resources available to the president and the president's Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States." The measure, written and introduced by Virginia's entire congressional delegation, was a response to Trump's equivocal statements after the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville and structured as a joint resolution specifically so Trump would have to sign it. He did so on Thursday.

In a brief statement, the White House press secretary's office summarized what the resolution said and noted that Trump signed it. Trump's statement doesn't mention anti-Semitism or white supremacy by name, but conveys that message.

Still, the "speaking out" Trump did in person on Thursday may not have been what the resolution's drafters had in mind. Peter Weber

September 13, 2017

On Tuesday night, the House easily passed a bipartisan joint resolution urging President Trump to "speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy," and "use all resources available to the president and the president's Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States." The Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent on Monday night, and Congress deliberately structured the measure as a joint resolution so that Trump has to sign it, rather than a simple or concurrent resolution, which expresses the sense of Congress without the president's signature.

The White House declined to say that Trump will sign the resolution, according to Politico's Kyle Cheney, though Congress expects him to.

The resolution was negotiated and introduced by Virginia's congressional delegation after Trump equivocated on condemning the white nationalist protesters at a rally in Charlottesville. The measure says that anti-racism protester Heather Heyer's murder was a "domestic terrorist attack," and called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to "investigate thoroughly all acts of violence, intimidation, and domestic terrorism by white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and associated groups" and also "improve the reporting of hate crimes" to the FBI. Peter Weber

September 5, 2017

On Sunday, Rev. Robert Lee IV told his congregation at Bethany United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, that he was resigning, and he explained why in a statement on Monday. Lee, a fourth-great-nephew of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, had introduced Susan Bro, the mother of slain Charlottesville anti-racism protester Heather Heyer, at the MTV Video Music Awards a week ago. "My presence at the church as a descendent of Robert E. Lee and an outspoken opponent of white supremacy had already attracted attention, but with my appearance on MTV the media's focus on my church reached an all time high," Lee wrote. He continued:

A faction of church members were concerned about my speech and that I lifted up Black Lives Matter movement, the Women's March, and Heather Heyer as examples of racial justice work. I want to stress that there were many in the congregation who supported my right to free speech, yet were uncomfortable with the attention the church was receiving. The church's reaction was deeply hurtful to me. ... When the church wanted to vote on my tenure, I tendered my resignation. [Rob Lee IV]

In his MTV speech, Lee, 24, had denounced racism as "America's original sin" and said those opposed to white supremacy could find inspiration in "the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women's March in January, and, especially, Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs."

Lee had been Bethany United Church of Christ's pastor for just six months, and he said his most important consideration was that the episode not turn into "a distraction from the sacred work of confronting white supremacy in all its forms." You can read his entire statement at Auburn Seminary. Peter Weber

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