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US jurors to hear closing arguments in ‘Unite the Right’ trial

In this photo from August 12, 2018, white nationalist Jason Kessler speaks at a rally near the White House on the one year anniversary of the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally  in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, FILE)
In this photo from August 12, 2018, white nationalist Jason Kessler speaks at a rally near the White House on the one year anniversary of the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, FILE)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — Jurors in the Unite the Right civil trial are set to hear closing arguments today in a lawsuit that seeks to hold white nationalists accountable for the violence that erupted in Charlottesville in 2017.

Lawyers for nine people who were physically injured or emotionally scarred during the two days of chaos allege that the defendants conspired to commit racially motivated violence. Attorneys for the white nationalists say there was no conspiracy, and their use of racial epithets and blustery talk in chat rooms before the rally is protected by the First Amendment.

Hundreds of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville on August 11-12, 2017, ostensibly to protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

During a march on the University of Virginia campus, white nationalists surrounded counterprotesters and threw burning tiki torches at them. The following day, an avowed admirer of Adolf Hitler rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring dozens more.

The driver of the car, James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, is serving life in prison for murder and hate crimes and lost an appeal of his conviction this week. Fields is one of 24 individuals and organizations named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a judgment that the defendants violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. It is being funded by Integrity First for America, a nonprofit civil rights organization.

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