Shane Burley: A History of Violence

Behind every lone wolf there’s a wolf pack. James Alex Fields is a murderer. They are all murderers.

For jury deliberation to finish in six hours there had to be consensus from the start. James Alex Fields had become the object of universal public hatred when he drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of antifascist protesters in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer. He was pronounced guilty on six counts, including first degree murder, earning him life in prison. In the nearly year and a half since Fields plowed his car down Main Street, he has remained almost catatonically silent in his cell, awaiting trial while every Alt Right personality screamed to every media outlet that would listen.

Antiracist protesters, including Heyer’s mother, packed the courtroom every day. After the verdict was announced, local organizer Rosie Parker led a public chant of “you will not replace us,” employing the white nationalist refrain made famous at Charlottesville, a reference to “white genocide” conspiracy theories about “white replacement.” Other survivors of the attack, like Marcus Martin, who had his leg shattered when the car sped into the demonstration, were there, using the trial as a moment of collective accountability for the city.

Fields had no one there. This was not surprising for a non-celebrity racist, a person who knows no one and who no one knows. While he remained silent, white nationalists used him as pundit fodder, nearly placing a cross on his back as he became the image of their victimization by liberal society. After trashing Heather Heyer in every conceivable way, from claiming her weight was responsible for her death to simply applauding murder, they focused on the claims of self-defense that Fields’ attorneys proffered to the jury.

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