The Slatest

White Supremacist Group Disavows Ties to Driver Who Plowed Into Protesters

The car that allegedly plowed through a crowd of protesters marching through a downtown shopping district is seen after the vehicle was stopped by police several blocks away Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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James Alex Fields Jr. was arrested Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, suspected of being the driver of the Dodge Challenger that plowed into a crowd of peaceful protesters on Saturday, killing one person and injuring 19 people in the process. Shortly after his mugshot was released some were quick to recognize the Maumee, Ohio man from photos taken earlier in the day. The New York Daily News “photographed Fields on the front lines of a volatile rally about 10:30 a.m.—flanked by other white men in polo shirts and tan slacks clutching the racially charged black-and-white insignia of the Vanguard America hate group.”

A Facebook page that appears to belong to Fields includes the Othala rune, an image popular among Neo-Nazis, as part of the banner image, revealed the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Vanguard America is a racist right wing group that helped organize the “Unite the Right” rally that descended into violence and chaos on Saturday. The Anti-Defamation League explains the group has increasingly taken a Neo-Nazi turn lately:

Vanguard America (VA) is a white supremacist group that opposes multiculturalism and believes that America is an exclusively white nation. Using a right-wing nationalist slogan, Blood and Soil, VA romanticizes the notion that people with “white blood” have a special bond with “American soil.” This philosophy first originated in Germany (as Blut und Boden) and was later popularized by Hitler’s regime. In the same vein, VA uses “For Race and Nation” as a variant slogan. Following this theme, VA maintains that America “is to be a nation exclusively for the White American peoples who out of the barren hills, empty plains, and vast mountains forged the most powerful nation to ever have existed.”

Originally VA was firmly in the alt-right hemisphere with focus on white identity. At that time the group was called American Vanguard. However, the VA has increasingly demonstrated a neo-Nazi ideology.

The group, however, released a statement saying that Fields was not an official member. “All our members are safe and accounted for, with no arrests or charges,” wrote Vanguard America on Twitter.

The suspect’s family also didn’t seem to know about his white supremacist views. Fields’ mother, Samantha Bloom, told the Toledo Blade that her son had told her he was headed to an “alt-right” rally in Virginia. “I told him to be careful,” Bloom said. “[And] if they’re going to rally to make sure he’s doing it peacefully.” Fields’ mother didn’t know her son was going to a white supremacist rally. “I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist,” Bloom told the Associated Press. “He had an African-American friend so …,” she went on to say before “her voice trailed off.” Fields’ mother said she would be surprised if her son’s political views were that extreme but also recognized she tried to stay out of his politics. “I try to stay out of his political views,” she said. “I don’t really get too involved.”

Reporters appear to have been the ones who told Bloom about her son’s involvement in the violence in Charlottesville and her reaction was all caught on camera.

Even as his mother said she didn’t know about Fields’ political views, it doesn’t seem he made much of an effort to hide them. The Facebook page that appears to belong to Fields included lots of photos and references to Nazism and white supremacy, including swastikas and a baby photograph of Adolf Hitler. He also had lots of memes that are popular with supporters of President Donald Trump, including Pepe the Frog. The Facebook page was deactivated at around 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

Fields, a registered Republican, has been charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count related to leaving the scene of the crash. A bond hearing is scheduled for Monday.