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updated: 8/13/2017 11:50 AM

Man accused of ramming protesters pictured with racist group

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  • This photo provided by the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail shows James Alex Fields Jr., who was charged with second-degree murder and other counts after authorities say he rammed his car into a crowd of protesters Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va., where a white supremacist rally took place. (Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail via AP)

    This photo provided by the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail shows James Alex Fields Jr., who was charged with second-degree murder and other counts after authorities say he rammed his car into a crowd of protesters Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va., where a white supremacist rally took place. (Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Protesters listen during a "Peace and Sanity" rally Sunday Aug. 13, 2017, in New York, as speakers address white supremacy violence in Charlottesville, Va., yesterday.

    Protesters listen during a "Peace and Sanity" rally Sunday Aug. 13, 2017, in New York, as speakers address white supremacy violence in Charlottesville, Va., yesterday.
    Associated Press

  • People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)

    People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)
    Associated Press

  • State Police in riot gear guard Lee Park after a white nationalist demonstration was declared illegal and the park was cleared in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at the white nationalist rally.

    State Police in riot gear guard Lee Park after a white nationalist demonstration was declared illegal and the park was cleared in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at the white nationalist rally.
    Associated Press

  • Charlottesville resident Elliot Harding lights a candle as he places flowers and a stuffed animal at a makeshift memorial for the victims after a car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally earlier in the day in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

    Charlottesville resident Elliot Harding lights a candle as he places flowers and a stuffed animal at a makeshift memorial for the victims after a car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally earlier in the day in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
    Associated Press

  • Larisa Roberts joins protesters in Oakland, Calif., during a counter protest to a rally by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

    Larisa Roberts joins protesters in Oakland, Calif., during a counter protest to a rally by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
    Associated Press

  • Flowers and other mementos are left at a makeshift memorial for the victims after a car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally earlier in the day in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

    Flowers and other mementos are left at a makeshift memorial for the victims after a car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally earlier in the day in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
    Associated Press

  • Authorities embrace while working near the scene of a deadly helicopter crash near Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. (Shelby Lum/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

    Authorities embrace while working near the scene of a deadly helicopter crash near Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. (Shelby Lum/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Authorities work near the scene of a deadly helicopter crash near Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. (Shelby Lum/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

    Authorities work near the scene of a deadly helicopter crash near Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. (Shelby Lum/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
    Associated Press

  • University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan listens during a news conference concerning the white nationalist rally and violence in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

    University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan listens during a news conference concerning the white nationalist rally and violence in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
    Associated Press

  • Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe addresses a news conference concerning the white nationalist rally and violence in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

    Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe addresses a news conference concerning the white nationalist rally and violence in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
    Associated Press

  • Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe addresses a news conference concerning the white nationalist rally and violence in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

    Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe addresses a news conference concerning the white nationalist rally and violence in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
    Associated Press

  • Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, right, gestures during a news conference concerning the white nationalist rally and violence as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, center, and Virginia Secretary of Public safety Brian Moran, left, listen in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

    Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, right, gestures during a news conference concerning the white nationalist rally and violence as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, center, and Virginia Secretary of Public safety Brian Moran, left, listen in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
    Associated Press

  • Laura Hainsworth, right, and Kristina Morris wave peace signs while holding a rainbow colored PEACE flag during a counter protest to the rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Abingdon, Va. (Earl Neikirk/The Bristol Herald-Courier via AP)

    Laura Hainsworth, right, and Kristina Morris wave peace signs while holding a rainbow colored PEACE flag during a counter protest to the rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Abingdon, Va. (Earl Neikirk/The Bristol Herald-Courier via AP)
    Associated Press

  • A vehicle reverses after driving into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)

    A vehicle reverses after driving into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)
    Associated Press

  • A vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.   /The Daily Progress via AP)

    A vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. /The Daily Progress via AP)
    Associated Press

  • Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.

    Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.
    Associated Press

  • Virginia State Police cordon off an area around the site where a car ran into a group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

    Virginia State Police cordon off an area around the site where a car ran into a group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
    Associated Press

  • Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.

    Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.
    Associated Press

  • Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.

    Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.
    Associated Press

  • Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.

    Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.
    Associated Press

  • Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.

    Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.
    Associated Press

  • Rescue personnel help an injured woman after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.

    Rescue personnel help an injured woman after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.
    Associated Press

  • Rescue personnel help an injured woman after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.

    Rescue personnel help an injured woman after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.
    Associated Press

  • Rescue personnel help an injured woman after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.

    Rescue personnel help an injured woman after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them.
    Associated Press

  • In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, multiple white nationalist groups march with torches through the UVA campus in Charlottesville, Va.   Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.  (Mykal McEldowney/The Indianapolis Star via AP)

    In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, multiple white nationalist groups march with torches through the UVA campus in Charlottesville, Va. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia. (Mykal McEldowney/The Indianapolis Star via AP)
    Associated Press

  • In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, multiple white nationalist groups march with torches through the UVA campus in Charlottesville, Va.   Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.  (Mykal McEldowney/The Indianapolis Star via AP)

    In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, multiple white nationalist groups march with torches through the UVA campus in Charlottesville, Va. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia. (Mykal McEldowney/The Indianapolis Star via AP)
    Associated Press

  • White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they guard the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

    White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they guard the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.
    Associated Press

  • These undated photo provided by the Virginia State Police show Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, left, of Quinton, Va., and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, Va. The two were killed Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, when the helicopter they were piloting crashed while assisting public safety resources during clashes at a nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.  (Virginia State Police via AP)

    These undated photo provided by the Virginia State Police show Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, left, of Quinton, Va., and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, Va. The two were killed Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, when the helicopter they were piloting crashed while assisting public safety resources during clashes at a nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. (Virginia State Police via AP)
    Associated Press

  • This undated photo provided by the Virginia State Police shows Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, Va. Cullen along with Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates were killed Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, when the helicopter they were piloting crashed while assisting public safety resources during clashes at a nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.  (Virginia State Police via AP)

    This undated photo provided by the Virginia State Police shows Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, Va. Cullen along with Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates were killed Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, when the helicopter they were piloting crashed while assisting public safety resources during clashes at a nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. (Virginia State Police via AP)
    Associated Press

  • This undated photo provided by the Virginia State Police shows Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Va. Bates along with Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen were killed Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, when the helicopter they were piloting crashed while assisting public safety resources during clashes at a nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. (Virginia State Police via AP)

    This undated photo provided by the Virginia State Police shows Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Va. Bates along with Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen were killed Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, when the helicopter they were piloting crashed while assisting public safety resources during clashes at a nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. (Virginia State Police via AP)
    Associated Press

  • White nationalist demonstrators hold their ground against Virginia State Police as police fire tear gas rounds in Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police dressed in riot gear ordered people to disperse after chaotic violent clashes between white nationalists and counter protestors.

    White nationalist demonstrators hold their ground against Virginia State Police as police fire tear gas rounds in Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police dressed in riot gear ordered people to disperse after chaotic violent clashes between white nationalists and counter protestors.
    Associated Press

 
 

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- 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 for 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 the group 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 the Charlottesville event, pledged to hold more events "soon."

"We are going to start doing this nonstop," the post said. "We are going to go bigger than Charlottesville. We are going to go huge."

Saturday's chaos erupted as neo-Nazis, skinheads, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and other white supremacist groups staged a rally to protest the city of Charlottesville's plans to remove the Lee statue. Peaceful counter-protesters arrived and marched downtown, carrying signs that read "black lives matter" and "love."

The two sides quickly clashed, with hundreds of people throwing punches, hurling water bottles and unleashing chemical sprays. Some came prepared for a fight, with body armor and helmets. Videos that ricocheted around the world on social media showed people beating each other with sticks and shields. Amid the violence, the Dodge Challenger tore through the crowd.

The impact hurled people into the air and blew off their shoes. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed as she crossed the street.

"It was a wave of people flying at me," said Sam Becker, 24, sitting in the emergency room to be treated for leg and hand injuries.

Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety. Video caught the car reversing, hitting more people, its windshield splintered from the collision and bumper dragging on the pavement. Medics carried the injured, bloodied and crying, away as a police tank rolled down the street.

Virginia's governor declared a state of emergency, police in riot gear ordered people out of the streets, and helicopters circled overhead, including one that later crashed, killing two state police troopers. Officials had not provided a crowd estimate but it appeared to number well over a thousand.

Fields' mother, Samantha Bloom, told The Associated Press on Saturday night that she knew her son was attending a rally in Virginia but didn't know it was a white supremacist rally.

"I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump's not a white supremacist," said Bloom.

___

Associated Press writers Alan Suderman in Richmond, Virginia, Heidi Brown in Charlottesville, Claire Galofaro in Louisville, Kentucky, and John Seewer in Maumee, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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