Charlottesville White Nationalist Rally Organizers Say They Were Only Violent Out Of Self-Defense
A federal judge could potentially dismiss a lawsuit against white nationalists who appeared in Charlottesville, Virginia last year. According to BuzzFeed News, white nationalists claimed self-defense at the Charlottesville rally, Unite The Right, saying that they used violence to protect themselves against counter-protesters at the march. The ultra-right rally was supported by several prominent neo-Nazi groups that descended upon the Virginia town in August 2017.
So far, there is no word from federal Judge Norman Moon who heard from attorneys representing both defendants and plaintiffs on Thursday. Representing several defendants in the lawsuit, attorney James Kolenich told NBC 29, "Motion to dismiss is about legal technicalities. There’s something to be said on both sides, but the judge, he took the argument seriously, and we got our points across. That's really all you can hope for."
Defendants include white supremacists like Jason Kessler, who organized the Unite the Right rally, Christopher Cantwell, and groups like the Vanguard America, which the Anti-Defamation League has termed a neo-Nazi outfit. According to BuzzFeed News, white supremacist Richard Spencer is represented by attorney John DiNucci.
In February, Kolenich told The Cincinnati Enquirer that he became an attorney for the white supremacist defendants in order to "oppose Jewish influence in society" and because "white people are the chosen people in the New Testament."
On Thursday, according to NBC 29, Kolenich said, "There’s a conspiracy to do something, right, and it involves physically coming to Charlottesville, and we admit that for the purposes of this motion. But that’s not the same thing as admitting things down the line in the litigation."
It was a summer rally that shocked Americans across the country with its virulent racism, including open Sieg Heil salutes. During the march, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, an anti-racism activist, was killed while at least dozens of others were injured when a man drove his car through a crowd of protesters, according to local authorities.
According to BuzzFeed News, Moon listened to several hours of arguments from both sides. The federal lawsuit was first filed in October by the acclaimed attorney Roberta Kaplan, who is mostly likely known for her successful argument in the Supreme Court case against Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.
Kaplan represents 10 residents of Charlottesville who accuse the white nationalists of deliberately planning violent attacks at the Unite the Right rally and seek compensatory damages for the alleged violence.
The lawsuit, officially titled Sines v. Kessler, consists of 96 pages and includes arguments against the defendants such as, "In countless posts on their own websites and social media, defendants and their co-conspirators promised that there would be violence in Charlottesville and violence there was."
It's hard to say whether the plaintiffs will be heard in Moon's court. The lawsuit is financed by the nonprofit Integrity First for America, which appointed Kaplan as the lawyer to argue on behalf of the plaintiffs. Its mission, according to a statement on its website, is to hold "America's leaders accountable when their actions threaten longstanding principles of our democracy."
It adds that the organization steps in "when political leaders profit off their positions of power or abandon our country's commitment to civil rights and equal justice for all."
The defendants' argument that they used violence to protect themselves hasn't shocked those representing the plaintiffs. According to BuzzFeed News, if the cases proceeds, the legal defense for the plaintiffs intend on sharing alleged chats between the white nationalists on the Discord app.
"It's become clear that part of their defense in the case was going to be, 'This is all self-defense,'" one of the plaintiff co-lead counsels, Karen Dunn, told BuzzFeed News. "Well, first of all, there are chats that directly contradict that."
Kaplan also told BuzzFeed, "They were talking about weaponry, violence, running over protesters, what is the best brand of mace."
The fate of the case is unclear for now, but according to NBC 29, the judge will potentially issue a ruling in the next month.