DOJ launches civil rights probe into Virginia rampage that left one dead

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A civil rights investigation has been launched by the federal government into the vehicular rampage that killed one woman and injured 19 other people during Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.  The girl who was killed has been identified as Heather Heyer.  She was 32 years old. (see pictures of victim and details below)

According to a statement issued by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Saturday night, “The Richmond FBI Field Office, the Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia have opened a civil rights investigation into the circumstances of the deadly vehicular incident that occurred earlier Saturday morning. The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and as this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time.”

Authorities said that James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, has been arrested in connection with the fatal crash.

Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler organized the rally to protest Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. The event attracted opposition protesters, sparking the violence and chaos that ended with injuries and even death.

Condemning the violence, Sessions said, “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”

The attorney general added, “I have talked with FBI Director Chris Wray, FBI agents on the scene, and law enforcement officials for the state of Virginia. The FBI has been supporting state and local authorities throughout the day,” Sessions said. “U.S. Attorney Rick Mountcastle has commenced a federal investigation and will have the full support of the Department of Justice. Justice will prevail.”

 

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas called upon the Justice Department to launch a probe on Saturday, issuing the following statement: “Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.”

Virginia State Police said that three other people were arrested in connection with the rally. They were identified as Troy Dunigan, 21, of Chattanooga, Tenn., charged with disorderly conduct; Jacob L. Smith, 21, of Louisa, Va., charged with assault and battery; and James M. O’Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Fla., charged with carrying a concealed handgun.

Reactions to Sessions’ statement were mixed on social media, with some saying the decision to make the case a civil rights investigation is correct, while others say the case is about terrorism and murder; and it wasn’t about race at all.

The NAACP reacted to the event by calling for President Trump to fire his adviser Steve Bannon, describing Bannon as a “well-known white supremacist leader.”

The National Urban League tweeted, “We call on everyone with a voice on our national stage to condemn these demonstrations & racist sentiments in the strongest possible terms.”

The female killed at the Unite the Right rally in Virginia is identified as Heather Heyer.  She was 32 years old.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for her family.  Seeking $50,000, there has been $43,000 raised as of 8:27am EDT Sunday morning.

One of the comments made on her GoFundMe page is from a friend who wrote, ‘she was murdered while protesting against hate.’

‘She died doing what was right. My heart is broken, but I am forever proud of her,’ Heyer’s mother, who has not been named, wrote on a GoFundMe Page set up for the family.

According to the DailyMail, Heyer, a paralegal with the Miller Law Group PC in Virginia, was a native of Greene County and graduated from William Monroe High School. Her social media reveals she was passionate about social justice and her final public Facebook post, dated from 2016, read: ‘If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.’

Her Facebook page shows a picture of Bernie Sanders for president 2016.

An update from the person managing the GoFundMe page reads: “I have spoken with Heather’s mother as well as other family members. We are setting up the funds to be released to whomever they choose to be in charge of her estate. I thank you all for helping to decrease their stress level and for helping us honor Heather.”

Charlottesville Police Chief Alfred Thomas Jr. told reporters Heyer was killed while crossing the street after Fields Jr plowed his Dodge Challenger into the protesters, and then went in reverse to break away from the crowd.  It was all caught on video.

The Department of Homeland Security put out a statement Saturday about the event:
“DHS personnel have been in contact with Virginia state and local law enforcement to offer any assistance necessary to deal with today’s horrible violent incident in Charlottesville. What we have seen today has no place in our society. DHS will continue to work closely with our state and local partners across the country to counter violent extremism in all forms.”

Also putting out a statement was Barack Obama, who used Twitter to quote Nelson Mandela:
Obama’s 3 tweets, when put together as a whole, reads: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion… People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love… For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela

In Lexington, Kentucky, the Democratic mayor put out a statement regarding the removal of statues in his city:
“I am taking action to relocate the Confederate statues. We have thoroughly examined this issue, and heard from many of our citizens. The tragic events in Charlottesville today have accelerated the announcement I intended to make next week. Tuesday I will ask Council to support Lexington’s petition to the Ky Military Heritage Commission, a required next step. Details to come. Lexington’s Confederate statues of Breckinridge & Hunt Morgan located at our Historic Courthouse, which will soon be our new visitors center.”

David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, is saying the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. represents fulfilling the promises of President Donald J. Trump.

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back, we’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump, and that’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back and that’s what we gotta do,” Duke said.

Contrary to Duke’s statements, President Trump has spoke out against hate crimes.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump began his remarks on Saturday.

Trump made it clear the problem is not any president’s fault, but a serious problem in society, saying, “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time. ”

He continued, “It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift resotration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society, and no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play.”

Here are the photos of the victim, Heather Heyer, 32.

Some of the messages on her GoFundMe page, read:
“My condolences to this lovely young woman’s family. Please understand she did not die in vain. Say her name.”

“My thoughts are with her friends and family. I heartbroken by the loss of such a precious, brave and heroic women.”

“Thank you for being a true ally. My thoughts and prayers are with your family. RIH”

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