White supremacists showed up at Charlottesville suspect's first court date

August 14, 2017, 1:54pm

One of the nation’s most prominent neo-Nazis showed up at a Charlottesville courthouse Monday to support James Alex Fields Jr. while he was officially charged with second-degree murder for mowing down people protesting the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally Saturday.

Fields, 20, in striped overalls and neatly side-parted hair, was arraigned via video conference from a local jail, in a courthouse in downtown Charlottesville. He was expressionless as Judge Robert Downer Jr. told him he was being charged with one count of second-degree murder and three counts of malicious wounding, for driving a speeding car into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

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Downer also asked Fields, an Ohio resident, if he had any ties to Charlottesville in terms of relatives or friends. Fields said he did not. Downer denied Fields bond, which the suspect said he wouldn’t have been able to afford. Fields was also assigned a public defender, Charles Webber, and was given an August 25 court date.

Outside the courthouse, at least three white supremacists protested Fields’ arraignment. One shouted “Heil victory.” Matt Heimbach, a well-known white supremacist from Indiana, was among them, and said that the organizers and participants of Saturday’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally had been mistreated by law enforcement. Heimbach vowed that white supremacists would return in full force to Charlottesville.

Heimbach is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “the face of a new generation of white nationalists,” who is credited with founding a number of white supremacist student organizations in Maryland and is now a “regular speaker on the radical-right lecture circuit.”

He was also caught on camera at a Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, shouting at and shoving a young black woman. The video went viral. A handful of bystanders chanted “Nazis, go home.”

The commotion at the courthouse came on an overcast morning in Charlottesville as city workers hosed down pavement covered in chalk messages preaching peace and harmony, a reminder that things in the normally quiet college town hadn’t quite returned to normal.

One local activist named Heather Cronk spoke to a crowd of reporters outside the courthouse.

“If you live in a community across the country that you want to keep from free from Nazis and white supremacists, this is the moment to align yourselves with Charlottesville,” Cronk said.

She also said that the activist community was urging the city to drop charges against any counterprotesters or activists over the weekend, saying that they sent a letter to the city council weeks ago warning that the white supremacist events would be “a bloodbath.”