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Jury awards millions in damages for Unite the Right violence

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 10:40 AM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR and AP) — A jury has ordered white nationalist leaders and organizations to pay more than $25 million in damages over violence that erupted during the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

After a nearly month-long civil trial, the jury deadlocked on two key claims but found the white nationalists liable on four other counts in the lawsuit filed by nine people who suffered physical or emotional injuries during the two days of demonstrations.

The lawsuit accused some of the country’s most well-known white nationalists of plotting the violence, including Jason Kessler, the rally’s main organizer; Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right”; and Christopher Cantwell, a white supremacist who became known as the “crying Nazi.”

“I think this verdict today is a message that this country does not tolerate violence based on racial and religious hatred in any form,” said Roberta Kaplan, counsel to the plaintiffs. “No one will ever bring violence to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, ever again. Because they now know what will happen if they do.”

Aside from the individuals, the organizations sued including Identity Europa and the League of the South each owe one million dollars.

”We are disappointed in the verdict. We think some of our arguments weren’t considered entirely. However, the jury did put in hard work and we respect the verdict. There’s post-trial work to be done and that’s what we’ll be doing,” said James Kolenich, lawyer to several of the defendants.

Overall, the plaintiffs do consider the verdict a win, even though the damages were less than what they had asked for.

“To be clear, this jury did find a conspiracy to commit violence and racially motivated violence to each defendant. Frankly, we think that is a resounding verdict for today,” said Karen Dunn, counsel to the plaintiffs.

Dunn said she was “thrilled with the result for our clients today” and said “we feel that justice was served today. There’s going to be accountability for the people who did this.”

The plaintiffs say they will bring claims one and two back to the courtroom, and they feel confident.

“We think that it’s a resounding verdict today, and frankly, a good sign for the future on the remaining counts.”

Reaction from anti-racist organizations across the city came quickly after the verdict, with a statement from the Charlottesville Anti-Racist Activist’s commending the jury’s decision and calling the courts’ role in impacting white supremacists’ wallets “just one tool.”

“[The plaintiffs] were ordinary, everyday people living out an anti-racist, anti-fascist life, and they put themselves on the line to be able to stand up and fight back against racial violence.”

Copyright 2021 WVIR. All rights reserved.

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