White nationalist leaders and groups were ordered to pay damages over deadly violence at 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A jury in the United States has ordered white nationalist leaders and organizations to pay more than $ 25 million in damages for violence committed during the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After almost a month long civil trial, the jury in the U.S. District Court on Tuesday found the white nationalists are liable on four of six charges in a lawsuit filed by nine people who sustained physical or emotional injuries during the two days of protests.
Attorney Roberta Kaplan said the plaintiffs’ attorneys plan to reload the case so a new jury can decide on the two claims about which the jury can not make a ruling. She called the amount of damages awarded on the other charges “eye-opening”.
“It sends a loud message,” Kaplan said.
The verdict is a rebuke to the white nationalist movement, especially for the two dozen individuals and organizations accused in a federal lawsuit of orchestrating violence against African Americans, Jews and others in a carefully planned conspiracy.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs cited a 150-year-old law passed after the Civil War to protect freed slaves from violence and protect their civil rights.
Commonly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, the law contains a provision rarely used that allows private citizens to sue other citizens for civil rights violations.
Hundreds of white nationalists stormed Charlottesville for the Unite the Right rally on August 11 and 12, 2017, to protest against city plans. remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee from a public square.
During a rally on the University of Virginia campus, white nationalists sang, “Jews will not replace us,” surrounded protesters, and threw tickie torches at them. The next day, an outspoken admirer of Adolf Hitler crashed his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one woman and injuring dozens more.
The then President Donald Trump had a political firestorm when he failed to immediately expose the white nationalists and said there were “very good people on both sides” of the incident.
The driver of the car, James Alex Fields Jr, is serving a life sentence for murder and hate crimes. Fields was one of 24 defendants named in the lawsuit funded by Integrity First for America, a nonprofit civil rights organization founded in response to the Charlottesville violence.
The lawsuit accused some of the country’s most famous white nationalists of planning the violence, including Jason Kessler, the rally’s chief organizer; Richard Spencer, which coined the term “alt-right” to describe a loosely connected group of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and others; and Christopher Cantwell, a white supremacist known as the “crying Nazi” for posting a tearful video when a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The trial contained emotional testimony from people who were hit by Fields’ car or saw the attacks, as well as from plaintiffs who were beaten or subjected to racist ridicule.
Melissa Blair, who was pushed out of the way when Fields’ car crashed into the crowd, described the horror of seeing her fiancé flourishing on the sidewalk and later learning that her friend, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed.
“I was confused. I was scared. I was worried about all the people who were there. It was a complete terror scene. It was blood everywhere. I was terrified,” said Blair, who shed tears several times during her testimony. .
During their testimony, some defendants used racial labels and defiantly expressed their support for white supremacy.
They blamed each other or the anti-fascist political movement Antifa for the violence that erupted that weekend. Others testified that they only resorted to violence after they or their associates had been attacked by protesters.
“We have come to the rescue of our friends and allies who have been beaten by the Communists,” said Michael Tubbs, chief of staff of the League of the South, a white nationalist organization.
Prior to the trial, Judge Norman Moon issued default judgments against seven other defendants who refused to respond to the lawsuit. The court will rule damages against those defendants.