search

Trial begins for far-right organizers of deadly 2017 Charlottesville rally

Civil damages suit filed by residents of Virginia city says those who arranged ‘Unite the Right’ gathering planned violence in advance and came prepared

White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the 'alt-right' (L) clash with counterprotesters as they enter Emancipation Park during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. (CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the 'alt-right' (L) clash with counterprotesters as they enter Emancipation Park during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. (CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

WASHINGTON — A civil trial began on Monday of the organizers of a far-right rally four years ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one person dead and 19 injured.

The lawsuit against the organizers seeking financial damages was filed by residents of the Virginia city impacted by the violence that accompanied the gathering.

The “Unite the Right” rally was held to protest municipal plans to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Army of Northern Virginia for the pro-Slavery South during the 1861-65 American Civil War.

It began with a march on the evening of August 11 by neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members carrying tiki torches.

Clashes broke out the next day and a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer.

Then-US president Donald Trump came under fire when he said afterward that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the protests.

Among the parties to the suit are four people who were hurt in the car attack.

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists encircle counter protesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Virginia., August 11, 2017. (Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Defendants in the suit are two dozen “individuals and organizations that conspired to plan, promote, and carry out the violent events in Charlottesville.”

“There is one thing about this case that should be made crystal-clear at the outset — the violence in Charlottesville was no accident,” the complaint says. “Defendants spent months carefully coordinating their efforts on the internet and in person.”

“Defendants brought with them to Charlottesville the imagery of the Holocaust, of slavery, of Jim Crow, and of fascism,” the complaint says. “They also brought with them semiautomatic weapons, pistols, mace, rods, armor, shields, and torches.”

The organizers have rejected the charges, claiming self-defense, and argue that they were merely exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech.

Jury selection began on Monday. The trial is expected to last several weeks.

Anti-racism groups have previously used civil litigation to target extremist groups in the United States and force them into bankruptcy.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed