James Alex Fields, Jr. charged with U.S. hate crimes after killing at Virginia rally

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The man charged with killing a counter-protester during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year has also been charged by federal authorities with hate crimes, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday.

The rally gained international attention when James Alex Fields, Jr. plowed into a group of people protesting the Unite the Right rally. One woman was killed and dozens were injured. Fields faces state murder charges in Virginia.

The violence was sparked after hundreds of people, some carrying white nationalist symbols and Confederate flags descended on Charlottesville to protest plans to remove a statue honoring a Confederate commander.

A clash between the protesters and counter-protesters forced Charlottesville authorities to declare a curfew.

“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.

At the time, U.S. President Donald Trump was condemned by both Democratic and Republican politicians after he said blame for the violence rested on “many sides.”

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by G Crosse and JS Benkoe)