Charlottesville four years later: Lawyers prepare for October trial to hold perpetrators accountable

A scene from the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. (Anthony Crider via Wikipedia)

Integrity First for America (IFA) was created to prosecute the leaders of these extremist hate groups and their organizations, claiming they had injured peaceful protesters.

TIn October, a trial will begin in Charlottesville, Virginia, to hold to account the leaders of white supremacist and other extremist organizations responsible for a weekend of frightening rallies and violence in Charlottesville in 2017. The footage was startling – of Organized tikitorch marches carrying men with shields and batons, shouting racist and anti-Semitic slogans, some of whom assaulted peaceful protesters seeking to remove a Confederate statue. They also walked around the Beth Israel congregation in Charlottesville.

The media reported that some participants in the “Unit the Right” rally were also carrying guns. Fighting broke out between the groups, but the most horrific event was the intentional use of a car to crash into the protesters. One person, Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist, was killed and dozens more were injured.

The driver, allegedly a Hitler admirer, has been convicted of federal and state offenses and is serving a life sentence. But there were no legal consequences for the others who planned and implemented the violent and hateful August 11 weekend.

Amy spitalnick
Amy spitalnick

“No matter how the defendants seek to avoid liability, we are committed to bringing these violent extremists to justice,” said Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America (IFA), a nonprofit organization. “At a time of rising white supremacy and extremism, this case sends a clear message: there will be consequences for violent hatred. “

The IFA was created to prosecute the leaders of these extremist hate groups and their organizations, claiming they had injured peaceful protesters. Their case is based in part on the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. After delays mainly due to COVID, the trial is scheduled to begin in federal court in Charlottesville on October 25.

IFA Sines v Kessler trial alleges defendants planned a plot that led to violence in Charlottesville, using Discord and other social media sites to recruit and organize participants, and discuss weapons to bring. The plaintiffs are a coalition of Charlottesville residents who were injured in the 2017 violence.

According to the IFA, the two dozen defendants are leaders of the white supremacist movement, including Richard Spencer, Andrew Anglin, Christopher Cantwell and Jason Kessler. Their organizations include Identity Europa, Vanguard American, and the National Socialist Movement.

Roberta kaplan
Roberta kaplan

Senior IFA lawyer Roberta Kaplan said in an update to the online case that the lawsuit seeks “justice for the plaintiffs through pecuniary claims against the defendants and the deterrence of others. groups considering such things “.

Spitalnick adds: “By winning big financial judgments at trial, we can effectively bankrupt and dismantle the leaders and hate groups at the heart of the violent and anti-Semitic white supremacist movement and clarify the consequences of this violent hatred. “

The IFA legal team is encouraged by the court sanctions – including financial penalties and prison terms – against several defendants who refused to provide the required evidence. According to the IFA, defendant Richard Spencer called the case “financially crippling” and said it hampered his ability to use online and other communication platforms. The Anti-Defamation League contributes to the legal effort with a contribution of $ 100,000 and research through its Center on Extremism.

Carolyn Normandin
Carolyn Normandin

“Our team and the plaintiffs have been the target of threats and harassment from the defendants and their supporters,” explains Spitalnick. “It’s largely anti-Semitic (I’m Jewish and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, and a number of our lawyers are also Jewish). This is why security is by far the most important item in our budget. Much of the legal work is pro bono; The IFA funds all business-related expenses, with security being the most important cost. “

Carolyn Normandin, ADL Michigan Regional Director, says, “Accountability is a step towards progress. This event sparked so much hatred against the Jews.

“We must continue the message that Americans do not give in to violence and hatred. We need to support the people who bring people to justice. It’s really important for ADL to be involved.

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