On Saturday afternoon, a counter protest at a controversial Charlottesville, Virgina, white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally turned deadly when a car plunged into a crowd of pedestrians. According to investigators, the driver of that car was 20-year-old James Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio. Just hours before the horrific vehicle attack, suspect James Fields had been spotted engaging in some very different activity, apparently on behalf of a known white supremacist group.
As New York Daily News reports, one of their photographers snapped a picture of Charlottesville suspect James Fields on the front lines of the white nationalist rally. At 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, the suspect was photographed proudly brandishing a shield featuring the well-known and divisive black-and-white insignia of the Vanguard America hate group.
Alongside Fields, who appears near the center of the Daily News photo were other white men dressed in nearly identical attire: khaki slacks and polo shirts.
The Anti-Defamation League describes the Vanguard America hate organization as one that focuses on “white identity.” However, the League went on to say that the divisive group’s members have “increasingly demonstrated a neo-Nazi ideology.” According to Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the black and white double ax emblem is widely recognized as a common version of the white supremacist group’s insignia while Charolottesville suspect James Fields’ attire in the Saturday morning photograph is “standard” among the group.
The photo of James Fields on Saturday morning, just hours before the Charlottesville domestic terrorism attack that left one woman dead is not the only indication that the suspect may have deep seeded ties with white supremacy. Fields’ Facebook page was reportedly full of Nazi and so-called “alt-right” photographs and memes. Everything from the disputed cartoon character Pepe the Frog to a photo of the Reichstag are said to have decorated his Facebook history before the page went dark late Saturday night.
According to James Fields’ mom, she was unaware that her son had anything to do with the “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally until hours after the deadly vehicle attack. Samantha Bloom claims that she believed her son was going to a rally that “had something to do with Trump.”
“I told him to be careful.”
James Fields’ mother Samantha Bloom also mentioned that her son had an “African-American friend” when expressing her shock that he was involved in a racist white nationalist rally. She also reiterated what she believed to be her son’s support of Donald Trump.
“I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist.”
Bloom says that her son went to military boot camp in 2015, and one of his Facebook photos featured him wearing an Army lanyard. However, the U.S. Army has not confirmed that Charlotte white supremacist rally car attack suspect James Fields ever served.
I guess if u r- white and dressed in khaki and a neat polo, no police. Black and in a hoodie, not so lucky.— Barbara Schwartz (@Barbara60117444) August 13, 2017
Vanguard America needs to be listed as a terrorist organization by the @FBI— William Smith (@smithwilliamtro) August 13, 2017
Terrorist was Trump supporter according 2 his Mom, R according 2 voter recds & white supremacist per this photo— Liam Burke (@YesWeCan06824) August 13, 2017
Established white supremacists hate group Vanguard America has spoken out in an attempt to distance itself from Fields, despite the fact that he was photographed holding a shield bearing their emblem at Saturday’s controversial “Unite the Right” rally. According to the group, the shields were available to anyone and James Fields is in no way affiliated with their organization.
“The driver of the vehicle that hit counter protesters today was, in no way, a member of Vanguard America. All our members had been safely evacuated by the time of the incident.”
An official statement regarding today's incidents and the individual in question. pic.twitter.com/wBaERomHEZ— Vanguard America (@VanguardAm) August 13, 2017
Suspect James Fields Jr. was taken into custody shortly after the unprovoked car attack that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer (who was protesting the white nationalist rally) dead and at least 19 others injured. He has been charged with second-degree murder as well as malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death, reports PEOPLE.
POTUS Trump addressed the Charlottesville attack on Saturday, but his words fell short of condemning the white nationalist/white supremacist movement, a fact that outraged many in the wake of such seemingly senseless violence. Many have since called on Trump to denounce alt-right, white nationalist and, white supremacist groups and causes.
You need to be specific regarding this. Condemn the White Supremacists behind this, and get rid of the ones in your WH.— OldCrow (@BirdieWings80) August 12, 2017
As someone pointed out,many of The White Nationalists were dressed like you on the golf course with white shirt,tan pants,and red MAGA hat.— Cecelia TU (@CeceliaTU1) August 12, 2017
Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer also called on Donald Trump to directly address the issue of white nationalism and denounce the white supremacy, neo-Nazi and so-called “alt-right” movement that has exploded since foray into the world of politics began.
According to Signer, Trump has an obligation to say “enough is enough” now that “people are dying” due to the white nationalist movement.
“The time has come for this to stop. This should be a turning point. This movement jumped the shark and it happened yesterday. People are dying and I do think that it’s now on the president and on all of us to say ‘enough is enough.’”
2. Vanguard America, whose tagline is "blood and soil,” is one of a number of “Alt-Right” groups emboldened since the 2016 election pic.twitter.com/HQVh8x06TQ— Hatewatch (@Hatewatch) August 13, 2017
While Charlottesville suspect James Fields Jr. has now been linked to the white supremacist movement by way of being photographed with the Vanguard America organization, a group frequently mentioned SPLC’s “Hatewatch,” (a Southern Poverty Law Center branch tasked with exposing hate groups) authorities have not released an official motive for Saturday’s deadly attack.
[Featured Image by Alan Goffinski/AP Images]