Wed, 21 Aug 2019

A Virginia state judge on Monday sentenced a self-professed neo-Nazi to a second life prison term for killing a demonstrator when he drove his car into a crowd protesting against white supremacists in Charlottesville two years ago.

Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard Moore sentenced James Alex Fields Jr, 22, to life plus 419 years, as recommended by the jury that found him guilty last December of murder plus eight counts of malicious wounding and a hit-and-run offence.

"Mr Fields, you deserve the sentence the jury gave. What you did was an act of terror," Moore said.

Fields who appeared in court on Monday in striped prison garb, has already received a separate life sentence without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty in March to federal hate-crime charges stemming from the violence in Charlottesville at Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017.

Heather Heyer, 32, one of the counter-demonstrators, was killed in the attack.

Unite the Right 2017

Unite the Right, which was organised to oppose Charlottesville's decision to remove a Confederate statue, was the largest white nationalist rally in the United States in recent years.

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Fields drove to Virginia from his home in Maumee, Ohio, to support the white nationalists.

During the rally, the then-21-year-old had been photographed marching with Vanguard America, a neo-Nazi group, during the rally. Throughout the day, rally participants clashed with community members, anti-racists and anti-fascists across the city.

The rally brought out thousands of supporters of the alt-right, a loosely-knit coalition of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis.

After the rally, as a large group of counter-protesters marched through Charlottesville singing and laughing, Fields stopped his car, backed up, then sped into the crowd, according to testimony from witnesses and video surveillance shown to jurors during the trial.

Following the 2017 Unite the Right, President Donald Trump inflamed tensions even further when he said "both sides" were to blame, a comment some saw as a refusal to condemn racism.

Heyer was among the 18 people killed by white supremacists in the US in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The number of hate crime also grew by 17%, according to the FBI.

White nationalist, neo-Nazi and far-right groups that took to the streets in Charlottesville saw permits for a spate of subsequent public events pulled or denied while hosting services, social media outlets and tech companies cracked down on far-right individuals and groups.

Counter-protesters far outnumbered white nationalists at the 2018 United the Right rally held in Washington, DC.

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