The violence that occurred at Charlottesville were acts of terrorism

by Adassa Coimin

On Saturday, August 12, a woman was murdered and 19 people were injured when a car plowed into a group of peaceful protesters as they were leaving the Unite the Right rally. Among this group of counter protesters, were people who condemned hatred and bigotry, including Black Lives Matters supporters and those against anti-semitism, from city folks to those who traveled from other states. The rally featured white nationalists, and neo-nazis who donned KKK gear, and Nazi flags and symbols. It was organized in order to protest the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee (a confederate soldier) from Emancipation Park, where the rally was initially planned to occur, with the approval from a judge on August 11. Amid this violence, 2 state troopers died in helicopter crash, having been deployed to surveil the violent protests from above. The troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates, were 48 and one day shy of 41.

I hope by now, if you haven’t already, that you’ve realized that the crash that murdered Heather Meyer, and harmed 19 other people, was not accidental, and was in fact an intentional act of domestic terrorism. Rally attendee James A. Fields Jr., drove his car into a moving crowd that was leaving the Unite the Right Rally where these people were unified in their common goal for encouraging and fighting for equality in a country that still fails to acknowledge it as a human right. Let me reiterate this people: James A. Fields is a terrorist. The crimes that he committed were acts of terrorism, and he shouldn’t be perceived as anything but one, simply because he is white.

 

Still don’t believe me? Well let’s analyze exactly what terrorism is and how the actions of the infamous James A. Fields were just that.

The Legal Information Institute, a forum convened by Cornell Law School that provides open access to law, features the term “domestic terrorism,” defined as violent acts that are dangerous to human life and are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, appearing to be intended in order to: “intimidate or coerce a civilian population,” “influence the  the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion,” or “to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.” These actions must also proceed within the “territorial jurisdiction of the United States”.

Fields committed a violent crime when he used his car to run down a group of people, much like the perpetrators of the Barcelona terror attack did, on August 17, and like many other terrorist acts that have occurred in the past year in Europe and the Middle East. His actions were deliberate. There was no way that they could have been accidental. He did not act out as form or manifestation of a mental illness, which is often what the media claims when a violent crime has been committed by a white man. Fields was known to hold extreme notions about white supremacy and Nazism, tracing back to even his adolescent years, and was described by a former teacher of his to be “misguided and disillusioned.” He idolized Hitler and held “radical convictions about race” and in committing this crime, Fields has no doubt brought about an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the state of Virginia, in the city of Charlottesville.

This terrible tragedy that occurred in Charlotteville is not an isolated incident. In fact, it is evidence of a history that United States of America has failed to accost. It is the result of this country’s shortcomings in bringing about reconciliation in nation that from the unforgiving holds of prejudice and white supremacy. The Charlottesville tragedy, should not come as a surprise to this nation, to anyone really.

This past July is evidence of this, when a previous rally had occurred in the same city of Charlottesville,  30 members of the Loyal White Knights chapter of the KKK adjourned together in rally at Justice Park, shouting crude remarks, vocalising supremacist slogans like “White Power”, as it is becoming a startling norm, waving and brandishing confederate flags and symbols. Although this rally was not as successful as they had wished it to be, what with being outnumbered by hundreds of counter-protesters, and despite this rally was not being nearly as tragic as this past one, it suggests that there is a force at large that is actively working  to achieve a reality that is precedent of the racism that persists in American society.

White supremacists like Fields have long been expressing their beliefs in destructive ways, inciting fear in communities, and bringing harm to those who they oppose. They acted in insidious ways and often faced impunity, because they were the very same government officials and politicians. The home of NAACP Florida executive director Harry Tyson was firebombed by members of the KKK, killing him and his wife, in 1951. In 1963, September 15, a bomb exploded under the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church. It had been Youth Day, and in the basement 5 young girls had gathered in the ladies room preparing themselves to take part in the Sunday adult service. When the bomb exploded, 11 year-old Cynthia Wesley, and 14 year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson were killed, leaving Susan, Addie’s sister alive but permanently blind. No charges were filed in the 1960s for the bombing of the church. In 1964, twenty predominantly black churches were bombed in Mississippi, by the local chapter of the KKK.

Watch Angela Davis speak on what people of color faced, growing up with the threat of terrorism to their lives, in the 20th century: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwJLq5k3uec

The KKK is a terrorist organization, and continues to function on the pretense that Americans often have; being that terrorism and religious extremism only began with 9/11, and that before 9/11, terrorism did not exist in this wonderful nation. History obviously tells a different story, but the fact that this notion even exists, is telling of the inscience of Americans.

The violence that took place in Charlottesville, did not occur by chance, nor did it rise spontaneously. The Charlotteville tragedy was the aftermath of this nation’s failure, in the words of Bryan Stevenson, to confront its harsh history, and commit to an effort of truth and reconciliation”. The KKK has acted like a terrorist organization from their very commencement, and to this day we are still in the midst of their reign of terror. Supremacists like Fields may continue to endeavor on with instigating violence, and the US can continue to prosecute individuals like Fields, but until the nation as a whole chooses to condemn white supremacy, and neo-nazism, and recognize the way in which modern society is paved by a demonizing history and speak genuinely about it, these ideologies will continue to prevail.