Jury awards $25m to victims in 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ assault

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A federal jury has determined that a group of prominent white nationalists, including Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler and Christopher Cantwell, were involved in a conspiracy to unite neo-Nazis and hate groups for the so-called “Unite the Right” rally, carrying torches. There was mob violence and mass violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

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The jury in US District Court was not able to reach a verdict on two federal conspiracy charges, including conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence and whether the defendants had knowledge of the conspiracy and failed to prevent it from happening.

The jurors found that James Alex Fields Jr. — who is serving life in prison for the murder of Heather Heyer after driving his car into a crowd — was liable for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional harm against several defendants. who was hit by his car. Those claims included $12m in damages.

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The jurors also awarded $200,000 in punitive damages against all 12 defendants, as well as $1m against five white nationalist groups, and compensatory damages in other charges, totaling approximately $25m.

The landmark decision on November 23 came amid an investigation into far-right violence and online-driven conspiracy theories and hate movements as lawmakers and federal law enforcement and Joe Biden’s administration center on national security issues.

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“This case has sent a clear message: Violent hatred will not go unanswered. There will be accountability,” said Amy Spitalnick, executive director of the civil rights organization Integrity First for America, which supported the lawsuit.

“These decisions underscore the major financial, legal and operational consequences for violent hate – even beyond the significant implications already in this case,” she said in a statement. “And in a moment of rising extremism, great threats to our democracy, and little justice, this case has provided a model for accountability.”

Hundreds of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville over two days in August 2017 for a rally publicly organized around their objection to the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

A crowd chanted “Jews will not take our place” and “blood and soil” as men marched through the University of Virginia campus with lit torches. The next day, white supremacists and hate groups armed with clubs and rifles clashed with counter protesters, and Fields, 22, rammed his car into the crowd, killing Ms. Heyer and injuring 35 others. He was convicted of first-degree murder and 29 of 30 federal hate crime charges and sentenced to prison in 2019.

For nearly a month, jurors reviewed a plethora of evidence, including video of the car attack, and the testimony of nine plaintiffs, as well as the defendants’ racist vitriol.

Unlike a criminal trial, in which the jury must find the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt” to reach a verdict of the crime, US District Court Judge Norman Moon told jurors that they must agree that they The plaintiff found “primality of evidence” to be valid. ‘ claims that.

The trial, which targeted Fields and several others involved in the rally, tried to rely on the 150-year-old Ku Klux Klan Act, which initially sought to combat the post-Civil War white supremacist group. The law has been invoked in two counts against former President Trump and his aides for their role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

The jurors ultimately could not reach a unanimous decision whether to indict on that federal civil rights law.

The lawsuit lists some of the most well-known figures among American hate groups, including Mr. Kessler, one of the main organizers of the rally, and Mr. Spencer, a white nationalist who is credited with coining the term “alt-right” and representing had gone. himself in trial.

Mr Cantwell, a white supremacist who was labeled a “crying Nazi” for posting a video filled with tears after learning of allegations against pepper-spraying protesters during a Tiki torch rally, also represented himself, and appeared to be trying to hijack the proceedings. ,great opportunity“To promote your ideology.

As cities across America revived the debate about the removal of Jim Crow-era monuments to Civil War figures and events, largely erected as part of a post-war Lost Cause campaign, Violent white supremacists swiftly came to his rescue.

The events in Charlottesville drew mainstream attention to the resurgence of far-right extremism and online-driven hate and conspiracy theories, and how white nationalists organize through online networks.

The plaintiffs alleged in their complaint, “The defendants brought with them imagery of the Holocaust, slavery, Jim Crow and fascism in Charlottesville.” “They also brought with them semi-automatic weapons, pistols, maces, rods, armor, shields and torches.”

a . Feather Press conference After the Charlottesville attack, then-President Donald Trump suggested blaming “both sides” for the rally’s violence, as journalists sought to understand whether he was providing moral equality to white supremacists and Mr. What was said Left”.

He continued: “They didn’t put themselves in – and you had some really bad people in that group, but you also had people who were great people on both sides. You had people in that group. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. A. I saw the same pictures you saw. You had that group of people who were there to protest the demolition of a very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another.

Joe Biden, who has pointed to images of the attacks in Charlottesville that prompted him to run for president, declared in his campaign that Mr Trump’s remarks of “very nice people” had “inspired hate-mongers and courage”. had provided a moral equality among the people who had to stand against it.”

In the days and months that followed, the former president, who had once supported the removal of such statues from public view, began to weaponize division over the debate, painting a vision of a nation that critics criticized as a Has signaled the elimination of racist dog whistles. The so-called white identity.

Mr Biden has repeatedly included the events in Charlottesville as one of his campaign themes, symbolizing the “fight for the soul of America”.

In a White House statement in August, he said, “What happened in Charlottesville — and to achieve America’s promise to every American — inspired me to run for president and now to ensure that my administration’s efforts are on.” What inspires work is that hate has no safe haven.”

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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