Press "Enter" to skip to content

Torch-bearing marcher who urged race war in 2017 indicted

A Texas man who once dared Charlottesville counterprotesters to start a race war by shooting him has returned to Charlottesville, where he has been indicted for participating in the 2017 torch-wielding march across University of Virginia Grounds.

Houston-area resident William Henry Fears IV has become the sixth person known to be charged for using a flaming object to intimidate after the march that preceded the deadly Unite the Right rally-turned-riot on Aug. 12, 2017.

"Held without bail," notes a local worksheet signed by a magistrate.

Fears, 35, of Pasadena, Texas, joins five other men who have been charged after the infamous Friday night assembly on Grounds, during which participants shouted neo-Nazi chants such as "Jews will not replace us" and "Blood and soil." The mostly male throng of several hundred dispersed after fists and torches were thrown in a clash with counterprotesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of the UVa Rotunda.

That evening’s rhetoric and violence presaged what turned out to be a more violent day in Charlottesville when the planned Unite the Right rally devolved into street brawls and chaos. One would-be rally-goer used a vehicle to kill an anti-racist activist named Heather Heyer and injure 35 others.

Like the five other men similarly charged for participating in the torch march, Fears was charge in a sealed indictment by a grand jury earlier this year. Judge Cheryl Higgins unsealed his indictment June 23 after a request from Assistant Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Lawton Tufts.

The charges have come so long after the alleged crimes because a previous commonwealth’s attorney contended that Virginia’s so-called "cross-burning" statute did not apply to the torch march.

Video shot on Aug. 12, 2017, shows Fears shouting at counterprotesters before one of them, briefly, steals his Vanguard America Texas flag.

"Shoot me," Fears shouted. "Fire the first shot of the race war, baby."

Texas prison records show that Fears has a criminal history that includes two violent convictions, one before the events in Charlottesville and one afterwards.

In 2010, Fears was sentenced on a charge of aggravated kidnapping after reportedly abducting a female acquaintance at knifepoint at the University of Texas at Tyler, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center has alleged that Fears’ 2019 conviction on a charge of domestic assault resulted from choking a former girlfriend. He was serving a five-year term on that charge when Albemarle County officials got him moved to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail on June 23.

Fears is the what-about-the-memes man shown in a viral video shot in Texas two months before the Charlottesville events. In that video, the man has brought some homemade far-right meme posters to what appears to be a militia-based protest against the removal of a statue honoring a slave-holding general.

One of the man’s memes criticizes American support of Israel, another bears an image of Pepe, the cartoon frog commandeered by the far right, while another poster says, "Red scum, your days are done."

"Dude, this is not Comic-Con," shouts one antagonist.

"I thought I was going to make friends," says the man identified as Fears.

Before he was attacked by one of his detractors, the man dejectedly contemplated his ouster with the words that would go viral: "But what about the memes?"

With his first court date set for Wednesday, Fears will likely ask for the evidence against him as well a lawyer, according to handwritten message he wrote to the court asking for those two things.

"I have no source of income and am indigent," he wrote.


Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *