The White House’s messaging has been mixed, at best, on whether or not James Alex Fields Jr. committed domestic terrorism. Fields, who was photographed marching with a white supremacist organization, allegedly killed Heather Heyer and injured 19 others when he drove his car at high speed into Charlottesville, Virginia, counterprotesters on Saturday.
President Donald Trump conspicuously avoided any mention of the term “domestic terrorism” in his initial “many sides” response, and again when he tried to explain those remarks on Tuesday.
“The driver of the car is a murderer,” he told reporters. “And what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was far more specific. On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” he said Monday that the attack in Charlottesville “does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute.”
It’s not clear yet whether those charges will stick. But the evidence emerging from news reports so far matches a pattern that dominates domestic terror attacks.
An investigation of domestic terror incidents between 2008 and 2016 showed that the majority of incidents involved right-wing perpetrators.
Reveal’s collaboration with the Investigative Fund found that the United States’ anti-terror apparatus was heavily focused on the threat of international, Islamist terrorism, which made up only a minority of the incidents in the data set.
In Virginia, the site of Saturday’s attack, there were seven domestic terror incidents between 2009 and 2016. Law enforcement prevented all but one of those incidents from being carried out. The only one that succeeded occurred in 2009. Warren “Gator” Taylor took hostages at a post office to express his displeasure with the federal government. After a nine-hour standoff, he surrendered.