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Charlottesville attacker James Fields sentenced to life in jail

Posted by / June 30, 2019

In August 2017, James Alex Fields went to Charlottesville, Virginia to participate in a “Unite the Right” rally. The rally was organized for several reasons, chief among which was to defend Confederate monuments, which have come under fire in the past several years. The rally began on a Friday evening and continued the following day. On that Saturday, counter-protesters tried to shout down the Unite the Right rally. A few skirmishes broke out causing police to break up the rally. Not long after the crowds dispersed, self-described white supremacist James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and causing dozens of other injuries.

Today, Fields was sentenced to life in jail for that crime. The defense pleaded for a lighter sentence, citing Fields’s tough childhood and mental health issues. Federal prosectors wrote in a statement, “The defendant’s crimes were so horrendous — and the maiming of innocents so severe — that they outweigh any factors the defendant may argue form a basis for leniency.” Fields pleaded guilty to 29 charges earlier this year.

The call for Confederate monuments’ removal began in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing. More specifically, Americans began protesting the monuments after George Zimmerman, Martin’s killer, was acquitted for Martin’s murder. That verdict highlighted what many perceive as institutional racial bias in the United States, concretized by Confederate monuments.

Many southerners, by contrast, believe that the statues are merely monuments to southerners who died to defend their states’ rights. As such, they have nothing to do with racism and everything to do with regional heritage. The phrase “heritage not hate” emerged as a counter-protest to defend the statues.

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