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People In Charlottesville React To A Guilty Verdict


In Charlottesville, Va., a jury late yesterday found James Fields Jr. guilty of first-degree murder. Fields is the Ohio man who drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters at Unite the Right rally a year ago. One person died, Heather Heyer, dozens of others were injured. As Hawes Spencer of member station WCBE reports, the guilty verdicts have given the community another chance to heal.

HAWES SPENCER, BYLINE: The defendant was motionless as he listened to the word guilty for all 10 charges against him, including the most severe - first-degree murder. Heather Heyer's mother was in the courtroom as the verdicts were announced. Afterwards, a group of activists gathered outside.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Whose streets?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Our streets.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Whose streets?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Our streets.

SPENCER: The Charlottesville rally took place last year after the city voted to remove a Confederate statue from a park. Groups of neo-Nazis and white nationalists protested and were met by hundreds of counter-protesters when the car attack happened. Last night, local resident Tanesha Hudson said the verdicts send a strong message.

TANESHA HUDSON: Don't think that you can come here and do this type of stuff and get away with it because we're not having it.

SPENCER: Courtney Commander was among the people who went to oppose the rally with Heather Heyer.

COURTNEY COMMANDER: You know, it'll never, like, bring back or undo the things that have happened from that day. But it definitely feels like justice has been served in a sense.

SPENCER: Marcus Martin testified during the trial about having his leg broken when the car crashed into the massive group of people. He was photographed in the famous picture wearing red tennis shoes as he was hurled into the air.

MARCUS MARTIN: Today, I can breathe. Today, I think everybody can breathe.

SPENCER: The jury returns next week as the penalty phase begins. Fields could be sentenced to life in prison in this case. But his days in court aren't over. He still faces the possibility of the death penalty on federal hate crime charges. For NPR News, I'm Hawes Spencer in Charlottesville, Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hawes Spencer