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Jury finds conspiracy in ‘Unite the Right’ rally

i24NEWS

4 min read
The early morning sun highlights the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, the focus of the 'Unite the Right' rally in August 2017 in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, June 29, 2017.
AP Photo/Steve HelberThe early morning sun highlights the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, the focus of the 'Unite the Right' rally in August 2017 in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, June 29, 2017.

The 'Unite the Right' rally protested the removal of a statue of a Confederate general in Virginia

A jury in the civil trial against the “Unite the Right” Charlottesville rally in Virginia, United States, found on Wednesday that the defendants who organized the two-day demonstration were liable for damages of more than $26 million. 

The month-long case was brought by nine people wounded at the 2017 rally, where one woman was killed by a car that plowed into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, i24NEWS reported. 

Damages of the verdict included compensatory and punitive damages on several claims, finding that five defendants were liable for racial, religious, and ethnic harassment or violence under Virginia state law.

All of the defendants were found to participate in a conspiracy to commit racial violence or fail to prevent it.

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Roberta Kaplan, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the trial, claimed that the verdict was a “message that this country does not tolerate violence based on racial or religious hatred.”

James Alex Fields Jr, the driver of the car that plowed into the crowd of counter-protestors, killing a woman and wounding dozens, was found liable for more than $12m on assault and battery charges, as well as for inflicting emotional distress.

Fields is already serving life in prison for murder and hate crimes, AP News reported.

More than half of the damages were against Fields, while the rest were spread among various defendants from the white nationalist movement.

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Evidence included testimonies from victims about the injuries they sustained at the rally, as well as private communications allegedly showing organizers discussing the potential for violence and whether it was legal to drive into protestors.

The damages awarded by the jury mean a judgment against some of America’s most notorious white nationalists, as the defendants claimed that they did not plan the violence, citing what they said before the rally as hyperbole and protected free speech.

According to AP News, white nationalist leader Richard Spencer vowed to appeal, saying that the “entire theory of that verdict is fundamentally flawed.”

“It was activism by mean of lawsuits,” Spencer said.

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Prof. Micah Schwartzman from the University of Virginia School of Law said that the jury’s decision is a "deterrent against future white supremacist conduct.”

'Unite The Right'

Hundreds of white-nationalist protesters brawled with opponents before and during a rally in August 2017.

Branded as "Unite the Right," the rally protested the removal of a statue of a Confederate general from the grounds of the University of Virginia. 

The demonstration snowballed into one of the largest street gatherings of far-right protesters in the US in years.