Charlottesville Victims Ask Court to Hold Nazis & White Supremacists Responsible
Plaintiffs in a civil right case against organizers of the Unite the Right rally are requesting that the defendants be held accountable for their part in the violence.
Press Release from Kaplan & Company, LLP:
In their first major filing since their complaint was filed, the plaintiffs in a civil rights lawsuit brought against prominent neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and affiliated groups concerning the violence in Charlottesville last August underscored the importance of holding the defendants accountable for the violence they caused.
The massive federal lawsuit was originally filed in October 2017 on behalf of ten Virginia residents injured during the violence in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, 2017. The case alleges that under the pretext of a “rally,” the defendants conspired to cause violence, harassment, and intimidation directed at black and Jewish residents of Charlottesville, as well as those who supported them.
Plaintiffs include a white Christian minister, minority University of Virginia students, an African-American landscaper, a Jewish dermatologist, and others injured as a result of the violence planned and executed by defendants. Three plaintiffs were struck by the car driven by defendant James Fields (who was also indicted criminally for the murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer).
In addition to Fields, the twenty-five defendants include active white supremacist and neo-Nazi individuals and groups, including Richard Spencer, Christopher Cantwell, Andrew Anglin, Jason Kessler, Vanguard American and Identity Evropa. Plaintiffs bring claims under the Ku Klux Klan Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and Virginia state law.
“The defendants carefully planned to turn August 11-12 into days of violence and infamy in the streets of Charlottesville. They succeeded. While our clients’ physical wounds will heal, as our client Marcus Martin has explained, their mental anguish will always be with them. The only way to give our clients justice and to make sure this never happens again is to hold defendants accountable,” said Roberta Kaplan, the founding partner of Kaplan & Company LLP. “While defendants try to shield themselves by invoking the First Amendment, this case is about violent acts, not hateful speech. The First Amendment does not protect a conspiracy to engage in violence any more than it protects a conspiracy to rob a bank.”
“Defendants attempt to reconstruct history in order to make it seem like they were innocent bystanders who witnessed a series of terrible accidents, but their own communications demonstrate that they planned, plotted and perpetrated the targeted acts of violence that took place in Charlottesville,” said Karen Dunn, partner at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP and a former federal prosecutor in Virginia. “Our laws do not protect premeditated and coordinated efforts to do violence; in fact, they prohibit them. We feel confident the court will allow our case to proceed past these motions to dismiss and all the way to trial.”
Certain of the defendants moved to dismiss the case, arguing that their conduct is protected under the First and Second Amendments. In today’s response to the defendants’ motion to dismiss, attorneys for the victims explain that:
At bottom, Defendants’ legal arguments are all directed against a strawman, an alternative version of reality, rather than against the case that Plaintiffs actually filed. On the basis of this factual narrative, which simply ignores the [Complaint], Defendants argue that Plaintiffs “attempt to frame idle chit chat, edgy jokes, memes, and conversations about the possibility of violence from Antifa thugs as a coordinated plan to attack the residents of Charlottesville.” But what happened in Charlottesville was surely no joke. The [Complaint] alleges with great particularity how Defendants formed, oversaw, and executed a common plan to arm themselves, travel to Charlottesville, and attack minorities—all in violation of our nation’s civil rights statutes. No court has ever held that illegal conspiracies to plan and perpetrate violence are shielded by the First Amendment.
The case is supported by Integrity First for America (IFA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending democratic norms and ensuring equal rights for every American.
“Integrity First for America is proud to support this historic case. The plaintiffs deserve justice, and the violent extremists who terrorized their city must be held accountable," said IFA communications director Brett Edkins.
Plaintiffs are represented by Robbie Kaplan of Kaplan & Company, LLP, Karen Dunn and Philip Bowman of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, and Alan Levine of Cooley LLP. The case is Sines v. Kessler and was filed in Federal District Court in Charlottesville, Virginia.