Tensions remained high here Monday after a brief court hearing at which a judge appointed an attorney for James Alex Fields Jr., the man suspected of killing a woman during a white supremacist rally.
A couple of “Unite the Right” activists screamed at journalists outside, saying, “You are all to blame for this.” They were soon confronted by a couple of counter-protesters, who yelled back.
It was a verbal continuation of the overt hostility on display over the weekend between white nationalists and anti-fascist protesters. A shouting match ensued for several minutes until police broke up the confrontation. But no one was injured.
Fields, 20, is accused of driving his car into a crowd of people, killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, who was protesting the “Unite the Right” march on Saturday.
Fields is being held on suspicion of second-degree murder, malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death.
The suspect appeared via video link in front of Judge Robert Downer. Fields wore a black and white jumpsuit and was informed of his charges and rights. He spoke very little.
Bond was not set and the judge appointed attorney Charles Weber.
The judge normally has someone from the public defender’s office available if the defendant has no lawyer. But he said someone in the office was related to an individual injured over the weekend, and he would have to go outside the office to make a selection.
Downer set August 25 as the date for the next hearing; it is possible there will be a bond hearing before then.
Saturday’s incident took place as hundreds of white nationalists converged on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general and slavery advocate Robert E. Lee.
Nineteen people were injured during clashes, 10 of whom were listed Sunday in good condition by the University of Virginia Health System. Nine patients were released.
Two Virginia State Police troopers died when a helicopter crashed in a wooded area near Charlottesville after monitoring Saturday’s events.
The clashes in Charlottesville sparked political fallout over the weekend, with critics blasting President Donald Trump for failing to single out white supremacists in his criticism of the violence. The Vice President, however, on Sunday did just that, calling out “dangerous fringe groups.”
People around the nation marched Sunday in support of the anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, with more than 130 rallies from California to Maine.
What do we know about Fields?
Fields was a man who possessed “outlandish, very radical beliefs,” and a “fondness” for Adolf Hitler, according to Derek Weimer, who teaches social studies at Randall K. Cooper High School in Union, Kentucky.
“It was quite clear he had some really extreme views and maybe a little bit of anger behind them,” Weimer told CNN. “Feeling, what’s the word I’m looking for, oppressed or persecuted. He really bought into this white supremacist thing. He was very big into Nazism. He really had a fondness for Adolf Hitler.”
Principal Mike Wilson said he remembered Fields as a quiet and reserved student who graduated in 2015. In August of that year, Fields was inducted into the Army but he left active duty in December 2015. A spokeswoman for the Army said he failed to meet training standards.
“As a result he was never awarded a military occupational skill nor was he assigned to a unit outside of basic training,” Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson said.
Fields’ mother, Samantha Bloom, told the Toledo Blade in Ohio, where he lives, that she didn’t know her son was going to Virginia for a white nationalist rally. She thought it had something to do with Trump.
She told the Blade she didn’t discuss politics with her son. She was surprised her son attended an event with white supremacists.
“He had an African-American friend,” she told the Blade.
Pence decries neo-Nazis, ‘dangerous fringe groups’
As criticism of Trump’s response reverberated, Vice President Mike Pence condemned the violence and white supremacists.
“We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK,” Pence said during a trip to Cartagena, Colombia. “These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”
Pence added: “The President also made clear that behavior by others of different militant perspectives are also unacceptable in our political debate and discourse.”
The creator of one of the most prolific neo-Nazi websites praised Trump for not specifically blaming neo-Nazis and white supremacists, saying “he loves us.”
Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer wrote that Trump’s comments were “good.”
“He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate on … both sides!” Anglin wrote. “There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all. He loves us all.”
Anglin did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
What happens now?
Three other men were arrested Saturday. One faces a charge of carrying a concealed handgun and another is charged with disorderly conduct. The third man was arrested on suspicion of assault and battery.
The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have launched a civil rights investigation into the deadly crash, to be led by US Attorney Rick Mountcastle.
Investigators will be looking into Fields’ alleged motives, and whether there’s enough evidence for a domestic terrorism case.