The high-profile trial of neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. has been getting all the attention this week, but as the jurors in Charlottesville map his fate, prosecutors and investigators across the country are dealing with a host of other cases involving hate and extremism.
And this is just a single week.
Studies have repeatedly shown that crimes and domestic terrorism by individuals ascribing to far-right political ideologies have climbed since Barack Obama’s presidency. In November, the FBI reported that hate crimes jumped 17 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. And a recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research group based in Washington, D.C., found that attacks by far-right extremists doubled from 2016 to 2017.
Ever since the Unite the Right rally drew Fields and hundreds of other white supremacists to Charlottesville, anti-fascist activists like Emily Gorcenski, a former resident of the college town, have been chronicling and monitoring those cases closely — and encouraging others to do the same.
“These court cases reveal details about fascist organizing and networks that would otherwise be difficult or dangerous to uncover,” Gorcenski told VICE News. “It also allows people an entry point into activism, as sitting in court and taking notes is meaningful, effective, legal, and usually safe. Finally, tracking cases and being present in court sends a clear message to fascists that they cannot retreat to the shadows.”
Here’s what’s on the docket this week alone.
Monday, December 10
Charlottesville, Virginia: Sentencing hearing begins for James Fields after his murder conviction
Jurors in a Charlottesville courtroom heard emotional testimony Monday from residents who were impacted psychologically or physically by Fields’ actions during the violent Unite the Right rally in August 2017. He plowed his car into a crowd of protesters, sending bodies flying and killing counterprotester Heather Heyer, a defining moment in one of the most brazen displays of white supremacy in modern American history. The sentencing hearing followed two weeks of trial, with the jury convicting him of first-degree murder. On Tuesday, jurors returned their recommendation of life plus 419 years in prison.
Toledo, Ohio: Arrest of woman plotting an attack on a bar, who'd been in correspondence with the white supremacist Charleston church shooter
Federal officials arrested Elizabeth Lecron, 23, who was reportedly obsessed with death and school shootings, on charges of transporting explosive material for the purpose of harming others. She ran a Tumblr page idolizing serial killers and mass shooters, and tried to send Nazi literature to Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, who’s in federal prison in South Carolina for killing nine parishioners. She'd also bought bomb-making materials and planned to attack a bar in Toledo.
Toledo, Ohio: Authorities arrest a man plotting an attack on a synagogue
Damon Joseph, 21, was allegedly inspired by ISIS and was plotting a mass shooting at a synagogue. Federal officials said that Joseph had expressed admiration for and wanted to emulate the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter.
Lynwood, Washington: 8 neo-Nazis are arrested for allegedly assaulting a black DJ at a bar
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said it arrested eight members of a neo-Nazi skinhead group, eight men and one woman, as part of an investigation into an assault of a black DJ at a minority owned bar on Saturday night.
Authorities believe that the group, which included people from Pennsylvania, north Carolina, Illinois and Oregon, had traveled to Washington to observe the anniversary of the death of a white supremacist figurehead more than two decades ago. One of the arrestees is Travis David Condor, who was photographed marching alongside white supremacists during Unite the Right in Charlottesville, the Associated Press reported.
The FBI is assisting local authorities in the investigation.
Tuesday, December 11
Pittsburgh: Status conference in synagogue shooter’s federal hate crimes case
Defense attorneys representing Robert Bowers, who opened fire on the Tree of Life synagogue in late October, killing 11, met at a courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh for a pretrial status conference. Bowers, who expressed violently anti-Semitic views on the website Gab, has been charged with federal hate crimes.
Prosecutors on Tuesday filed a note of procedure that outlined steps for pursuing the death penalty.
Wednesday, December 12
New York City: Motions hearing for alleged white supremacist who murdered a black man
Motions hearing for James Harris Jackson, 28, a white supremacist who traveled 200 miles to New York City from his home in Baltimore in March 2017 with the goal, prosecutors say, of killing black men. Jackson stabbed 66-year-old Timothy Caughman to death in midtown Manhattan. “His intent was to kill as many black men here in New York as he could,” prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said at Jackson’s arraignment last year. “The defendant was motivated purely by hatred.” He is facing second-degree murder and hate crime charges and is set to appear in court on Dec. 17.
Santa Ana, California: Alleged anti-government extremist to be arraigned on arson charges
Arraignment of Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, who is accused of sparking the 23,000 acre Holy Fire, which ripped through Riverside and Orange Counties in August to September.
Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigators say that Clark is a Sovereign Citizen a vein far-right anti-government ideology that promotes the idea that the federal government does not have constitutional authority to enforce laws or impose taxes. Sovereign citizens have been linked to a number of other incidents, including the man who killed four people at a Nashville Waffle House back in April, or a man in Austin, Texas who was arrested in April 2017 on suspicion of planning an attack, and had stockpiled over 1,000 rounds of ammunition plus three guns.
Corvallis, Oregon: Student with white nationalist ties sentenced for hate crimes
Oregon State University graduate student Andrew Oswalt, 28, will be sentenced for putting racist bumper stickers on cars outside a meeting of anti-racist activists.
During the his last month, prosecutors revealed that Oswalt had previously marched with white power groups in Portland, kept the company of violent anti-Seities, and kept a Confederate flag hanging in the window of his apartment across the street from Oregon State University black cultural center, according to The Oregonian.
Thursday, December 13
Tempe, Arizona: Trial begins for two women linked to anti-immigrant group, who are accused of vandalizing a mosque
Tahnee Gonzales, 32, and Elizabeth Dauenhauer, 51, broadcast themselves on Facebook Live trespassing into and vandalizing an Islamic Community Center earlier this year. Gonzales brought her three children along.
Both women have been tied to the Patriot Movement AZ, a coalition of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim activists. Gonzales is facing aggravated criminal charges.
Friday, December 14
New York: Arraignment of several members of the Proud Boys
Six men and alleged members of the Proud Boys, the fascist street gang, will be arraigned on charges linked to a violent brawl in Manhattan in October. After their now former leader, Gavin McInnes, spoke at the Metropolitan Republican Club, members brawled with protesters and shouted homophobic slurs.
David Kuriakose, 35, Irvin Antillon, 41, Douglas Lennan, 40, and Geoffrey Young, have all been charged with rioting and assault or attempted assault. John Kinsman, 40, and Maxwell Hare, 26, will face additional charges of gang assault and criminal possession of a weapon. Two other members arrested in connection to the incident are scheduled to be arraigned January 18.
Cover: In this Nov. 20, 2018, file photo, a makeshift memorial of flowers rests on bushes outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)