Charlottesville Community Reacts to Guilty Verdict for James Alex Fields, Jr.
James Alex Fields, Jr., the man who rammed his car into a crowd of people on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - James Alex Fields, Jr., the man who rammed his car into a crowd of people on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
Around 5 p.m. on Friday, December 7, the jury handed down guilty verdicts for the other nine charges Fields faced.
Outside the courtroom Friday night, it was a wave of emotions for those who were at the scene on 4th Street on August 12, 2017.
After the verdicts were handed down, community members and survivors took to the streets downtown.
"It’s a relief,” Marcus Martin, a victim of the car attack, said. “You can actually breathe now from it."
Martin was one of the victims outside Charlottesville Circuit Court following the verdict.
"Long nine tense days, like those nine days when this whole court case was going on, you just couldn't breathe,” Martin said.
On Friday, Fields was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer. He was also found guilty of several other charges related to the violent car attack following the Unite the Right rally on August 12.
"Just having to go through what he did to us - out of hatred, balance, with the intent to hurt us, kill us - and just to make sure that he can never do that to nobody else again,” Martin said. “You can't bring this upon anybody else again."
Community members took time to pay their respects to Heyer Friday night, gathering at her memorial site on 4th Street.
"Physically, mentally, and emotionally, there are so many people hurt in this community,” Katrina Turner, who lives in Charlottesville, said.
The crowd then marched to the statue of Robert E. Lee in Market Street Park, which people say is the reason behind much of the violence that occurred on August 12, 2017.
Some say even with the guilty verdict for Fields, there’s still work to be done in the community.
"Racism and white supremacy did not show up in Charlottesville on August 11 and leave on August 13,” Matthew Christensen, a community activist, said. “It’s been here before then, it’s still here now, and we still have so much work to do to correct all of the evil of racism and white supremacy that we see in our community."
Others say a little bit of justice has been brought to the community.
"So thank God for the victory, thank God for the guilty verdict,” Turner said. That’s all I can say - thank God."
At the end of the day, activists say the Charlottesville community will stay strong and continue on its path of healing.
The next step for this trial is the penalty phase, which will pick up on Monday, December 10, at 9:30 a.m.
Fields faces upward of more than six life sentences.
After a jury makes its recommendation, the judge will hand down the final sentence.