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A motorist who allegedly plowed his vehicle into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year was charged Wednesday with numerous federal hate crimes.
James Fields of Maumee, Ohio, was charged by a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia with one count of a hate crime that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, who was among counter-demonstrators protesting a rally of white nationalists Aug. 12, 2017.
Fields, 21 years old, was also charged with 28 counts of “hate crime acts” for injuring dozens of people, and one count of “racially motivated violent interference with a federally protected activity” for ramming his car into the crowd.
“Today’s indictment should send a clear message to every would-be criminal in America that we aggressively prosecute violent crimes of hate that threaten the core principles of our nation,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
Fields also faces state murder charges in Virginia; he has been in custody since the rally.
The violence was triggered after hundreds of people, some carrying white nationalist symbols and Confederate flags, gathered in Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue honoring a Confederate general.
Eleven southern states, known as the Confederacy, attempted to secede from the United States in 1860 in order to preserve the institution of slavery.
The Charlottesville vehicular attack occurred after violent clashes broke out between advocates of removing the statue and counter-protesters, forcing authorities to order the crowds to disband.
Fields was photographed hours earlier with a shield bearing the emblem of Vanguard America, one of the hate groups that participated in the rally. The group has denied any association with Fields.