The white nationalist who killed a woman after he drove his car into a group of people peacefully protesting Nazis marching was on Friday found guilty of murder. James Alex Fields, Jr., was guilty on all 10 criminal counts against him, including first-degree murder for killing Heather Heyer during the Unite The Right white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, during the summer of 2017.
Many people attributed the act of hate by Fields, 21, to President Donald Trump, whose divisive and racist rhetoric that defined his candidacy, election and subsequent presidency emboldened white supremacists around the country and the globe.
Fields had no defense for his actions, as he was arrested just about a mile from the scene of the crime following the intentional crash on Aug. 12, 2017. Still, “prosecutor Nina-Alice Antony depicted Fields as an angry white nationalist who acted with hate and violence,” NPR reported. “Antony reminded the jury of a meme Fields posted three months earlier on Instagram. That post showed flailing bodies — labeled “protesters” — being tossed into the air after a car plows into a crowd.”
While many folks on social media rightfully reacted with relief that Fields will spend the rest of his life behind bars in a maximum security prison, others couldn’t help but remember the president’s fateful words he delivered after the white supremacist rammed his car into the crowd and injured 19 other people.
Referring to the “neo-Nazis” who were confronted by protesters, Trump said during a nationally televised press conference that “you also had people that were very fine people on both sides,” which many people took to mean that the president believed there were “very fine people” among the white nationalists. The same group of white supremacists that lashed out violently at anybody who opposed their rally.
While some of those targeted by the white supremacists chose to fight back, others were not as fortunate, including one victim who was beaten strictly because of the color of his skin.
All of which made the president’s words that much more incredulous, even if they were coming from a man who unabashedly aligned himself with white supremacists during his presidential campaign and after the election.
Backlash over those fateful three words — “very fine people” — was swift, but it took a full year before Trump would attempt to backtrack on his comments.
“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” Trump tweeted Aug. 12 of this year. “We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”
But that incomplete mea culpa was too little and too late for many people, some of which took to Twitter to express their glee at Fields’ fate and sadness mourning the loss of Heather Heyer.