Charlottesville Protest Leads To Call For Expansion of Hate Crime and Terrorism Laws

james-alex-fields-jr-f77d1f9e078c37aeBelow is my column in The Hill on the calls for hate crime and terrorism charges against James Fields and possibly others.  The response is understandable, but the expansion of these laws raise serious free speech concerns that should be considered before prosecutors move beyond the current murder charge.

In a rare moment of unity in our country, leaders of both major parties joined in their call for investigations and prosecutions following the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va. Officials have called for hate crime and terrorism charges against James Alex Fields Jr., 20, who is accused of mowing down counter-demonstrators and killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal.

It was a sickening act that came after a day of violence near the statue of Robert E. Lee. Fields is already charged with murder in Virginia, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved quickly to open an investigation for possible hate crime charges on the federal level. Such a charge could rekindle concerns over the expansion of both hate crime and terrorism laws, particularly in conflict with free speech principles.

Hate crime laws

The first challenge for a hate crime prosecution will be to determine if this was an act of specific hate from general rage. The hate crimes statute covers an attack that was motivated not by unfettered fury but particularized hatred of a victim’s race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. Fields may indeed have targeted people on that basis, but there would be serious questions over the applicability of the statute. There is no indication that he waited for particular people to enter the street, but mowed down everyone in his path.

While Fields is reportedly an admirer of Adolph Hitler and some of his victims were black, Heyer was white and the crowd was a mix of races and genders and religions. The Justice Department could argue that Heyer was killed in an act targeting blacks, but it will have to show that Fields was attacking counter-demonstrators generally. This is the long-standing objection of civil libertarians that hate crimes tend to be dangerously fluid and subjective — as opposed to the more concrete murder charges.

There is a more general provision under the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and Section 245 of Title 18 that makes it a federal crime to use force to willfully injure or intimidate any citizen “participating lawfully in speech or peaceful assembly” directed at opposing the denial of civil rights to other people. That provision, however, is more often directed at acts like the denial of voting rights. It has not been applied to a case like this.

There was violence on both sides of this demonstration with people showing up with shields, clubs and other weapons. Fields certainly seems to easily fulfill the hate aspect of a hate crime, but his prosecution could raise the question of whom or what he hated so much as to cause him to speed down a crowded street in Charlottesville.

Terrorism laws

National security adviser H.R. McMaster took the calls for prosecution into a different direction on ABC’s “This Week” and insisted that “anytime that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism.” As with the statement of Attorney General Sessions, the strong language from McMaster was commendable in assuring Americans that we will not stand for such acts of savagery in this nation. However, McMaster’s call to “extinguish” acts of hatred through terrorism laws triggers a predictable response for those of us in the civil liberties community.

While Fields cannot be charged with domestic terrorism under these facts, people, including CNN legal analyst Page Pate, have called for the expansion of the law. Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s homeland security adviser, echoed McMaster’s sentiments and said that “kind of violence, committed for seeming political ends, is the very definition of domestic terrorism.” The question again will be Fields’s “seeming political ends” in plowing his car into a crowd of people on a street.

Civil libertarians have objected for years over the expansion of terrorism laws after 9/11. Under the USA Patriot Act, a violation of federal or state criminal law qualifies as “domestic terrorism” if it is intended to coerce or intimidate a civilian population or to coerce the policy of the government. As with the hate crime provision, there are obvious concerns about the use of such a law in the context of a political demonstration.

The First Amendment sees no distinction based on viewpoints. They are all protesters and cloaked in the same constitutional protections — and subject to the same criminal laws for violence. Indeed, the demonstrators had recently succeeded in going to court to enjoin the denial of free speech by the Charlottesville City Council in refusing them a permit.

There are calls for the demonstration by white supremacists and nationalists to be investigated as part of the terroristic act (or under the Ku Klux Act). That raises the specter that violence by demonstrators would be subject to terrorism investigations more readily than the violence of counter-demonstrators. For example, the racist organizer of this event was assaulted the following day when trying to speak to the media. Was this terrorism by a person acting with “seeming political ends”?

Obviously, this is not the time when it is popular to raise such concerns. At a time of national rage, such constitutional concerns can appear precious or even disloyal. However, we have much to lose if we allow crimes like terrorism to expand dramatically into areas of unpopular but protected speech. What Fields allegedly did was not speech, it was murder. As we legitimately investigate a possible hate crime, we need to be careful not to lose that distinction.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him o

275 thoughts on “Charlottesville Protest Leads To Call For Expansion of Hate Crime and Terrorism Laws”

  1. THE EVENTS AT CHARLOTTESVILLE WERE CLEARLY ARRANGED BY THAT PIECE OF DIRT, SOROS ( a perfect example of what people do, who have more money than is good for them). The response of the left was hardly a surprise. Nevertheless, people have begun to understand that government is a vulgar sideshow, devised for whom Carlisle described as: ‘the swinish multitude’.

    More to the point, what does any of this matter? The country was lost long ago.

  2. Some of these statues have been there for over 150 years, and now they bother you!

    1. They won’t stop being bothered until they realize their problem for 150 years has been the Democrat Party……. ……..

  3. Why would there ber an expansion of the terrorism laws when the ones on the books, rather like the 10,000 gun control laws, are not be used?

    Come to think of it if they were being used how would we know?

    There is no ‘probable cause’ and other such impedimenta.

    Civil rights and the Bill of Rights are immediately suspended

    The rule becomes ‘on suspicion of’ no proof required. nor any written record.

    There are no Miranda Escobedo Warnings issuedk, no phone call, no lawyer hired nor appointed,

    No Judge, Jury nor trial and best of all none of these pesky Hawaii style Judges could issue any sort of ruling. On what? No one would know that Little Johnny BLM had been busted then whisked away as if Little Johnny Antifa had never existed. Little Johnny’s entire existence could be erased as if Little Johnny had never existed.

    Little Johnny’s Mommy could be arrested and also expunge from the roles of humanity for even claiming he existed as a supporter of terrorism.

    Suppose at each of these events 20 to 40 were scooped up along with too vocal witnesses until gradually there was no such thing as Antifa or BLM or the other nut jobz.

    No Terrorism laws do not need expanding. They need using. Until the terrorist regardless of who is paying them or equipping them or teaching them or reporting about them ceased to exist if for no other reason than fear for their own existence

    After all it was the one thing Obey Me and the US Congress did do right af the end of 2015 when they extended the Patriot Act and broadened the Patriot Act and he Supreme Court up held the whole shebang.

    Come to think of it the IRS and Congress itself are not exempt from the Terroist Provisions of the Patriot Act. and maybe just maybe they should be thinking hard about that before they treat us to another pathetically phony government shut scenario. When they try scaring the old folks half to death for what is that if not an Act of Terror. and patently false with 60% of the government still working.

    Expansion No. Action Yes.

  4. While some try to kill one another in the streets… In The Hill, economist Stephen Moore touts the economic progress that black Americans have made under the Trump administration so far, writing that the President is “delivering positive results” in “creating jobs, higher incomes and trying to give a better education to every disadvantaged child in America,” calling it “a pretty darn good civil rights record.”

    1. Dispatched no doubt by the white ID leaders of the establishment neo aristocratic left and their token …….RINOs ……(gotcha you thought IJ was going to say something racist or sexist didn’t you? OK ) their token RINO’s and left ex-stream-est DINO’s Can’t get more racist, sexist or bigoted than that.

  5. Prof. Turley’s column accurately expresses many of the reasons I have long opposed hate crimes legislation and efforts to criminalize so-called “hate speech.” Except in the rare instance in which a person is intentionally seeking to incite a crowd to violence or to the commission of other unlawful acts, my opinion is that all speech, no matter how hateful, is protected expression under the First Amendment.

    “Hate crimes” laws are flawed because they improperly incorporate motive into the elements of a criminal act. In my view an actor’s motive should be material only as one factor to be considered in the sentencing phase of a criminal prosecution.

    We can now return to our regularly scheduled program: “Apologia Pro Vita Trumpis.”

  6. The psycho-lib media is in its fifth day of wall to wall coverage of Obama’s “false flag” event, instigated by his political operatives who viciously attacked a permitted, peaceful rally, repeating the “Big Lie” that Trump didn’t say what Trump said (i.e. that he renounced neo-Nazis and white supremacists).

    Meanwhile, the “Mueller-Comey Gang” of Clinton donors and democrat “opposition researchers” persists in its fraudulent, illegal “Investigation of Nothing” as proved in The Nation, Hillary gets away with her extremely lucrative pay-for-play as the Sec. of State, Obama gets away with a “deep state” “holdover” coup d’etat in America, Samantha Power and Susan Rice get away with felonious “unmasking,” the DNC gets away with its alleged assassination of Seth Rich and Joseph Rago’s murder, allegedly just hours before he was to meet with Federation consular officials regarding an upcoming article he was preparing on Hillary Clinton and her links to Russia, gets absolutely no coverage in the media.

    1. George, when your’e not watching Alex Jones or covering yourself in peanut butter what do you for fun? Polish your busts of Hitler and Putin? Sit around reading guns and ammo? Having someone baby power your buns?

      1. FishWings, your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to investigate and post here the truth of the Joseph Rago death with specific reference to his alleged journalistic investigation into the alleged Hillary Clinton participation in the “Veropharm” deal to manufacture drugs at its brand new Ukrainian plant and profit enormously from the mandatory purchase of those drugs by Americans under Obamacare. As usual, should you or any member of your farce be captured or killed, this commenter will disavow any knowledge of your existence. This comment will self-destruct in five seconds, I hope. Good luck, FishWings.

    2. Well spoken, George. For presenting accurate facts, you of course would expect criticism from the Antifa-loving libs!

  7. “There was violence on both sides of this demonstration with people showing up with shields, clubs and other weapons”

    A shield is not a weapon, it’s a means of defense. The “unite” people no doubt brought them because of the known record of left-wing violence over the past two years in Berkeley, San Jose, Chicago, Middlebury College and probably a lot of other places I can’t recall right now.

  8. Enthusiastic Actors & Photographers, again?

    Why Was This ‘Crowd Hire’ Company Recruiting $25 An Hour ‘Political Activists’ In Charlotte Last Week?

    “Crowds on Demand, a Los Angeles-based Public Relations firm specializing in innovative events, is looking for enthusiastic actors and photographers in the Charlotte, NC area to participate in our events. Our events include everything from rallies to protests…Pay will vary by event but typically is $25+ per hour plus reimbursements for gas/parking/Uber/public transit.”

      1. LOL, that’s what I’ve been thinking for a while now.

        And with the arrest piling up the Prison Industrial Complex will be happy.

        I think AG Sessions will be going after Mayors & Governors as well.

  9. Here’s the latest from US govt intel guy explaining how this Coup against Prez Trump & the American people is rolling out:

  10. Both Jamie Dimon & Larry Summers are opening siding with the ongoing Coup against Prez Trump & the American people.

    So what some us believe is that Charlottesville, Antifa Fascist & the Neo Fascist are both controlled groups by Deep State, causing trouble waiting to take down this government, like this fighting fish in the video below

    1. As a fascinating bit of trivia, the actress playing Rosa Klebb in the classic “From Russia With Love” shown in this clip was Lotte Lenya, who was the wife of the great composer and songwriter Kurt Weill. Singer Bobby Darin also immortalized her in the great song “Mack the Knife,” originally composed by Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, from their classic “The Threepenny Opera.” Marc Blitzstein’s version of the lyrics, which are the best known today, mistakenly mentions Lotte Lenya rather than Jenny, the character she played in “The Threepenny Opera.”

      1. Ralph Adamo – Kurt Weill was a good little Communist and took refuge in the US returning to East Germany after the war was over. I admire his work, not him.

        1. Paul, I feel the same about Weill. In the cases of exceptional artists, I separate their works from their politics.
          Thus, I don’t let politics get in the way of my enjoyment of, for example, Weill’s work, Richard Strauss’s work, and Richard Wagner’s work. As the great conductor Arturo Toscanini once said, “To Richard Strauss, the composer, I take off my hat. To Richard Strauss, the man, I put it on again.” In contrast, because I never thought highly of Roger Waters’ work long before I knew anything about his politics, his politics only makes it even easier to change the channel should some radio station promote his shlock.

  11. Jamie Dimon’s Memo To JPMorgan Employees: “I Strongly Disagree With President Trump’s Reaction ”

    “I strongly disagree with President Trump’s reaction to the events that took place in Charlottesville over the past several days. Racism, intolerance and violence are always wrong. The equal treatment of all people is one of our nation’s bedrock principles.”



    Larry Summers Loses It: “Trump Is Endorsing White Supremacists”, Asks How Supporters “Face Their Children”

    “President Trump is endorsing white supremacists, he is ‘uncomfortably close’ to white supremcists… our President is supporting racists…I don’t know how people who are supporting them are able to face their children…”

  12. President Donald J. Trump –

    “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

    “Racism is evil.”

    National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

    National Association of Black Journalists

    National Association of Black Accountants

    National Association of Black Storytellers

    National Urban League

    Miss Black USA

    Blacks in Government

    Black Entertainment Television

    United Negro College Fund

    National Black Chamber of Commerce

    Rainbow Push Coalition

    National Society of Black Engineers

    Black Lives Matter

    Black Panthers


    1. Those are (nearly all) groups working to improve the lives of their members – not to attack white people, drive them away or claim superiority.

  13. Here’s a piece in who that Commie Fascist are & that wave fascist flags:

    According to Ms. Dickson, “[A]ntifa’s origins can be traced back to Europe in the 1920s and 30s. Since the end of World War II, antifa activity has ebbed and flowed along with that of neo-Nazis, skinheads and other hate movements that have sprung up around the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.”

    In fact, as the avowedly Marxist-socialist periodical Jacobin magazine explains in a much more honest, if not less enthusiastic, appraisal, Antifa, originally known in its native Germany as Antifaschistische Aktion, was founded as the militant wing of the German Communist Party. In the 1930s, it was known to be every bit as violent as its Nazi opponents. After World War Two, Antifa groups re-formed in Germany to collaborate with Soviet communists on subduing the country and rooting out its past to create a new socialist utopia. They were active in Communist-controlled East Germany until that country’s Stalinist leadership got fed up, broke the groups up, and sent many of their leaders to gulags. ”


    Both Commies, Fascist Nazis & Islamic ideologies are repugnant to the democratic type of Republic government & it’s constitution!!! But it seems a good amount of posters here, just as those on Flowers For Socrates website Hate Trump & Hate the USA & are siding with the Commies, Fascist Nazis & Islamic ideologies.

    1. A repost, but appropriate here.

      Pro tip: if your news source is a “sovereign citizen”, a member of some sort of “militia”, the disguised guy at you last tinfoil hat convention, or someone who lives in a camper, you need to sit down, because I have something to tell you that’s going to make you very sad…

      This is to “who needs newspapers when I gots internet” oky

    2. thanks for the good piece on history and another reminder that both the National And International Socialist movements started from the same source. and to this day work for the same ends.

      Today we were treated to Comrade Red Rosie O’Donnel and Comrade Michael Moore trying to describe President Trump ih their own parties description. If ever there were two more deserving of having the Terrorist Section of the Patriot Act used those two fit the mug shot and wanted posters perfectly.

  14. The mainstream media, including JT’s website, don’t want to discuss the facts and, instead, always frame their narrative with such bogus issues as “racism,” “hate-speech,” and other parts of their Leftist agenda to take away the rights of ordinary law-abiding citizens.

    As I customarily do from time to time here, I will set the record straight and ‘splain what has really happened.

    The first critical fact you must recognize is that the Leftists WANTED to have broken bones, bloodshed, and murder as a result of the protests in Charlottesville, VA. They could have easily PREVENTED such things from happening, but that would not serve their REAL purpose, as I’ve disclosed in my first paragraph. If you don’t understand this, we’ll need to go back to some basics.

    Basic # 1: The mayor of Charlottesville is Michael Signer, and the mayor had the necessary authority to order the Police to ensure that each protesting group could meet peaceably–but SEPARATELY–via ENFORCED BARRIERS specifically created to ensure the safe expression of opposing views. Mayors do this ALL of the time when they DON’T want violence to happen.

    Basic #2: The mayor of Charlottesville was Michael Signer, who received his Ph.D. from the University of California, BERKELEY. Berkeley ONLY mints LEFTIST Ph.D. candidates. Period. Plus, Signer worked for the Center for American Progress and with John Podesta on Obama’s State Department Transition Team. Thus, Signer is a CERTIFIED LEFTIST, committed to carrying out the Leftist agenda to destroy civil liberties. Additionally, George Soros, the infamous billionaire Leftist, has long been a financial backer of Leftist causes, including the Leftist protesters in the Charlottesville melee.

    Basic #3: If you have any intelligence whatsoever, and combine the above two facts together, you MUST reach the conclusion that Signer and his allies and supporters WANTED the confrontation to be physical, knowing full well that the results of such a chaotic interaction among the opposing protesters would result in physical harm and even DEATH. All of this was readily foreseeable and preventable.

    But Signer & Company WANTED the confrontation to be physical and to escalate into violence, if possible. Consequently, Signer & Company and theri Leftist allies everywhere were DELIGHTED that individuals were severely injured and one person died. And the mainstream media and JT were LOVING it as well! They couldn’t be HAPPIER with the outcome–although, of course, they would have been happier if more people were killed. (But perfection is an elusive thing, even with the best preparations they made to ENSURE that violence would take place without Police intervention. Perhaps the next opportunity, they will try to do “better” achieving that objective.)

    I hope that some here appreciate hearing some honesty and the truth for a change, and while I realize that the phony, self-righteous, hypocritical Leftists will deny that they have taken delight in the outcome of the Charlottesville confrontation, their actions speak far louder than their verbal diarrhea, since they have absolutely NOTHING to say when their own Leftist allies take violent actions against non-Leftists. (Leftists silently tell themselves that “they had it coming to them.”) So even when they’re not directly lying, they’re lying by omission. It is in their base, perverse natures.

    1. I don’t believe that the mayor wanted anyone to die, but yes, I do believe that he knowingly allowed a very dangerous situation to unfold in order to score political points. The removal of the statue was highly controversial, and rather than having city crews quietly remove it without fanfare, he wanted a big public spectacle, which not surprisingly, spun out of control.

      1. There is a pending lawsuit re the matter, he couldn’t just “quietly remove it without fanfare.” IIRC, the lawsuit is based on a state law forbidding the removal of war memorials. The real question is why the sudden eruption of a demand for removal of statues that have have gone unnoticed by the vast majority of the population for about 100 years? I think it’s a crisis manufactured by the Sorosite wing of D Party and the NYT and their other media allies.

      2. TIN, you are projecting your own sense of decency onto the Charlottesville Mayor. This nation has already witnessed violence on BOTH sides, so mayors who don’t want any murders or mayhem make sure that the Police are there to keep the sides TOTALLY SEPARATE so they can’t directly interact, as they did in this case. The Mayor of Charlottesville was no dope and knew exactly what he was doing when he ordered the Police to do NOTHING to keep the groups separate. Why? Because he WANTED the violence to happen. When you stop projecting your own ethics and views of life onto the mayor, you will finally recognize that what I’m telling you is 100% true. I have news for you. Yes, there are horrible and terrible people on this planet who are ruthless, devious, sinister, and vile. Just because you aren’t one of them, doesn’t change the fact that others fit that description.

    2. Please post more of this type of material. Your presence here reassures me that you’re not operating heavy machinery or otherwise endangering people in real life.

      This is to “the trilateral commission has bugged my commode” ralphie

      1. Sure, whatever you say, dope, dupe, or dummy–as the case may be (or all three).

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