Self-professed neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. was convicted of first-degree murder on Friday for killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer when he intentionally drove his car into a group of counterprotesters at last year’s violent Unite the Right rally that brought scores of white supremacists to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia.
The 21-year-old with ties to the hate group Vanguard America is now facing up to life in prison. After more than seven hours of deliberations, the jury found him guilty of Heyer’s murder and several other charges—five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of leaving the scene of a crime—related to the dozens of others who were injured.
While Fields isn’t scheduled to be sentenced until next week, news of his conviction was widely celebrated by anti-racist activists and many others as “a small measure of justice for Heather Heyer.”
“We must always hold bigots accountable,” tweeted writer and activist Shaun King, who has been a vocal critic of the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville.
Sending love to all of my friends in Charlottesville as white supremacist Trump supporter James Alex Fields, Jr is found guilty of First Degree murder and 9 other felonies for deliberately running over Heather Heyer & others with his car.
We must always hold bigots accountable. pic.twitter.com/Je2nURUD0l
— Shaun King (@shaunking) December 7, 2018
“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Today, we have reclaimed our streets,” local activist Rosia Parker proclaimed at a Charlottesville memorial for Heyer, according to The Daily Progress.
Led by community activist Rosia Parker, members of the Charlottesville community chant in solidarity with the victims.
Parker began the chant by reclaiming a chant used by Unite the Right attendees on Aug 12: You will not replace us pic.twitter.com/RDhhNkxKBy
— Tyler Hammel (@TylerHammelVA) December 7, 2018
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, connected it to the broader race issues that have plagued the United States since its founding and persist today. “Fields is the face of violent white supremacy in our country,” she said. “Every last one of them must be held accountable.”
James Alex Fields found guilty of murder after plowing his car into a crowd and killing Heather Heyer.
Fields is the face of violent white supremacy in our country. Every last one of them must be held accountable. https://t.co/c6rRwuN6wx
— Kristen Clarke 866-OUR-VOTE (@KristenClarkeJD) December 7, 2018
The verdict on Friday followed an intense trial. As the New York Times reports:
The nine-day trial featured days of emotional testimony from victims who were seriously injured in the crash, including a man who pushed his girlfriend out of the way, bearing the brunt of the impact himself, and a single mother who suffered two broken legs and a broken back. Many of the victims returned to the courtroom day after day to listen to other witnesses, and jurors saw them hugging and comforting one another.
During the trial, prosecutors introduced evidence that Mr. Fields intended to commit harm when he drove from Ohio to attend the rally, which featured neo-Nazis bearing swastikas and Ku Klux Klan members. In a text message exchange with his mother before the rally, Mr. Fields was told to “be careful.” “We’re not the one[s] who need to be careful,” he replied in a message that also included a photo of Adolf Hilter.
Earlier this week, BuzzFeed News had reported that in a phone call with his mother in December of 2017—months after plowing into Heyer and at least 35 other people with his vehicle—Fields had referred to Heyer as “that one girl who died, or whatever” and said her death “doesn’t fucking matter.”