Attorney General Jeff Sessions called late Saturday for a federal investigation into the day’s racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice,” Sessions said.
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His announcement was followed Sunday by continued reaction to President Donald Trump’s statement Saturday that appeared to distribute blame for the violence among many or all those in attendance, as well as a revised White House statement.
The setting for the mayhem was a mass protest by a group of white supremacists, who were hollering racist and anti-Semitic slogans. Among those in attendance were former Klan leader David Duke and Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute.
“When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated,” Sessions added. “I have talked with FBI Director Chris Wray, FBI agents on the scene, and law enforcement officials for the state of Virginia. The FBI has been supporting state and local authorities throughout the day. U.S. Attorney Rick Mountcastle has commenced a federal investigation and will have the full support of the Department of Justice. Justice will prevail.”
One woman, identified as 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed and at least people were 19 injured when a car slammed into a crowd of protesters. The vehicle’s driver was identified as James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio and he was charged with second-degree murder, among other possible crimes.
“Any time that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism,” said national security adviser H.R. McMaster, speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” where he also referred to the car attack as “a criminal act against fellow Americans.”