Trial for Fatal Charlottesville Rally Will Decide if Violence Was Planned

In Summary

A civil lawsuit and trial naming white supremacist groups will examine if violence at the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally was planned.  

WARNING- This story contains details and videos of racial violence. Resources for those triggered by this content are available here 

A civil trial meant to examine if violence was premeditated at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, four years ago began Monday.  

RELATED: Organizations, Citizens Seeking to Acquire Charlottesville Confederate Statues 

The federal lawsuit alleges the violence on August 11 and 12 of 2017 was planned, according to CNN. “There is one thing about this case that should be made crystal-clear at the outset — the violence in Charlottesville was no accident,” the lawsuit said.  

Town residents and counterprotesters who sustained injuries in the violence are listed as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit as it alleges organizers participated in a conspiracy. Ten people, including college students, residents and a clergy member, are looking for damages for the physical and emotional injuries they sustained from the violence.  

During the rally, white supremacists and nationalists gathered to promote their ideals. Videos of the rally show them chanting racial slander and Nazi propaganda.  

RELATED: Virginia’s Top Court Says Charlottesville Can Take Down Confederate Statues  

Rally organizer Jason Kessler claimed the event would be a protest against the removal of a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee. On August 11, members of white supremacist groups began arriving in the city early to participate in a torchlight march. Violence then broke out near the Rotunda of the University of Virginia.  

The next day, violence continued to grow and a man named James Fields drove his car into a crowd, injuring many and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. University of Virginia student Natalie Romero, Richmond resident Chelsea Alvarado and Charlottesville resident Thomas Baker were also hit by the car Fields drove into the crowd. The lawsuit states all three have been harmed physically and emotionally by the violence.  

Ten white supremacist and nationalist organizations, including two chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, are listed in the lawsuit along with 14 individual names. While they assert “scuffles” are the norm in political protests, attorneys representing the plaintiffs said the purpose of the rally was to spread hate.  

RELATED: Supporters of Insurrectionists Gather at ‘Justice for J6’ Rally  

According to CNN, the defendants used social media and the internet to instigate violence. This includes the use of violent images and rhetoric online. “[The] defendants took no steps to prevent any violence,” the lawsuit said. “To the contrary, consistent with their conspiracy to encourage and enable violence, defendants and co-conspirators reinforced a false narrative of a larger — necessarily violent — racial and religious war in which Unite the Right events were a critical moment.”  

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.  

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