The driver of a car accused of crashing into a crowd protesting a white supremacist rally in Virginia had been photographed hours earlier carrying the emblem of one of the hate groups that organized the “take America back” campaign.
Vanguard America denied on Sunday any association with the suspect. A separate hate group that organized the initial rally pledged on social media to organize future events that would be “bigger than Charlottesville.”
Meanwhile, the mayor of Charlottesville and political leaders of all political stripes vowed to combat the hate groups and urged President Donald Trump to forcefully denounce the organizations that had promoted the protest against the removal of a Confederate statue. Some of those groups specifically cited Trump’s election after a campaign of racially charged rhetoric as validation of their beliefs.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced late Saturday that federal authorities will pursue a civil rights investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash. The violence and deaths in Charlottesville “strike at the heart of American law and justice,” Sessions wrote. “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”
Police charged James Alex Fields Jr. with second-degree murder and other counts after a silver Dodge Challenger they say he was driving barreled through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman and wounding at least 19.
In a photo taken by the New York Daily News, Fields, a 20-year-old who recently moved to Ohio from Kentucky, stands with a handful of men, all dressed similarly in the Vanguard America uniform of khakis and white polo shirts. The men hold white shields with a black-and-white logo of two axes. The Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee is in the background.
The Daily News said the photo was taken about 10:30 a.m. Charlottesville officials say Fields crashed his car into the crowd at 1:42 p.m. The Anti-Defamation League says Vanguard America believes the U.S. is an exclusively white nation, and uses propaganda to recruit young white men online and on college campuses.
In a Twitter post, the group said it had handed out the shields “to anyone in attendance who wanted them,” and denied Fields was a member. “All our members are safe an (sic) accounted for, with no arrests or charges.”
In blog posts that appeared Saturday after the violence, the Daily Stormer, a leading white nationalist website that promoted…