Charlottesville Jury Finds Organizers of 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ Rally Liable for Violence
November 24, 2021
A jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Tuesday found the main organizers of a deadly white supremacist demonstration in the city in August 2017 to be civilly liable under state law for the violence that occurred, and awarded more than $25 million in damages to injured counterprotesters.
Prominent far-right and neo-Nazi figures — including Jason Kessler, Matthew Heimbach, Richard Spencer, Andrew Anglin, and Christopher Cantwell — were among the defendants at the four-week trial.
Evidence presented by the prosecution in the Sines v. Kessler case included recordings of defendants using antisemitic and racist rhetoric in conversations.
The “Unite the Right” rally was held in Charlottesville on August 11-12, 2017, to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a municipal park.
The event began with a Friday night tiki torch march where participants chanted, “Jews will not replace us,” among other bigoted vitriol.
Violent clashes erupted the next morning, and counterprotester Heather Heyer was killed and dozens of others injured when neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. intentionally rammed his car into a crowd in downtown Charlottesville.
Two Virginia state troopers — H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates — also lost their lives in a helicopter crash during the police response to the rally.
“Today’s verdict sends a loud and clear message that facts matter, the law matters, and that the laws of this this country will not tolerate the use of violence to deprive racial and religious minorities of the basic right we all share to live as free and equal citizens,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Roberta Kaplan and Karen Dunn, stated on Wednesday.