What we know so far about deadly car rampage and violent Charlottesville rally
The “Unite the Right” rally, held in the city on Saturday, was spurred by city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a local park. The city council approved the removal of the monument in April, but the dismantling was suspended in May for six months amid multiple lawsuits.
Far-right activists flocked to Charlottesville for the rally, while hundreds of anti-fascists turned up to protest the far right’s rally.
Both sides clashed in the streets, using bats, shields and deploying pepper spray and other substances. The street violence resulted in several arrests and a number of people being injured, while the police declared a state of emergency in downtown Charlottesville, amid fears of violence escalation.
The state of emergency, however, did not prevent the gray Dodge Challenger frommowing a group of counter-protesters down a narrow street. The car plowed through the crowd at high-speed, sending people flying into the air.
The vehicle stopped only after colliding with another car. Several counter-protesters attacked the vehicle with bats, smashing its windows and trying to prevent the driver from leaving the scene.
Their attempt, however, was futile, as the driver rode away in reverse at high speed, hitting several more people.
A woman, identified as 32-year-old Heather Heyer from Ohio, was killed during the incident, while 19 others were injured. All the injured victims are being treated by the University of Virginia Medical Center. Five of them remain in critical condition and four in serious condition, while 10 others are in “fair” or “good” condition, according to the hospital.
Friends of Heather Heyer have launched a fundraising campaign for her family. The fundraising has surpassed the initial goal of $50,000 less than in a day.
The attacker was identified as 20-year-old James Alex Fields from Ohio. He was taken into custody following the deadly incident, charged with one count of second degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, one count of failure to prevent a hit-and-run incident and one count of failure to stop for an accident involving a death.
The FBI and US attorneys have launched a civil rights investigation, Reuters reports, citing the FBI field office. Depending on the outcome of the FBI investigation, the suspect might face not only state but federal charges as well.
Fields' mother, Samantha Bloom, has confirmed that her son was attending the rally, stating that she thought the event was for President Trump, not white supremacists. “I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump's not a white supremacist,” Bloom told AP.
While the police investigate the incident as a “vehicular homicide,” several US officials have described the event as a domestic terrorist act.Speaking with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, the mayor of Charlottesville, Mike Signer, branded the incident “a clear terrorist attack with a car used as a weapon.”
President Trump’s national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, who also appeared on the program, expressed a similar attitude toward the incident.
“Anytime that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it meets the definition of terrorism,” McMaster said. “What you see here is a criminal act against fellow Americans. A criminal act that may have been motivated — and we'll see what's turned up in this investigation — by this hatred and bigotry, which I mentioned we have to extinguish in our nation.”
Police have not released any information on the possible motives of the suspect yet.