New law­suits aim to pre­vent more vi­o­lence in Char­lottesville

Truro Daily News - - WORLD -

Two newly filed law­suits against the white na­tion­al­ists and oth­ers who de­scended on Char­lottesville dur­ing a sum­mer rally aim to pre­vent the vi­o­lent chaos that un­folded from hap­pen­ing again.

One of the law­suits was filed Thursday in Char­lottesville Cir­cuit Court on be­half of the city, lo­cal busi­nesses and neigh­bour­hood as­so­ci­a­tions. It ac­cuses or­ga­niz­ers of the Au­gust “Unite the Right” rally, lead­ing fig­ures in the white na­tion­al­ist move­ment and their or­ga­ni­za­tions, as well as pri­vate mili­tia groups and their lead­ers, of vi­o­lat­ing Vir­ginia law by or­ga­niz­ing and act­ing as para­mil­i­tary units.

It doesn’t seek mon­e­tary dam­ages but asks for a court or­der pro­hibit­ing “il­le­gal para­mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity.”

“Touted as an op­por­tu­nity to protest the re­moval of a con­tro­ver­sial Con­fed­er­ate statue, the event quickly es­ca­lated well be­yond such con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected ex­pres­sion,” the law­suit says. “In­stead, pri­vate mil­i­tary forces trans­formed an idyl­lic col­lege town into a vir­tual com­bat zone.”

Sep­a­rately, 11 res­i­dents in­jured in the vi­o­lence filed a law­suit late Wed­nes­day night in fed­eral court in Char­lottesville against a num­ber of rally lead­ers and at­ten­dees. News of that law­suit was first re­ported by The Washington Post.

The rally drew hun­dreds of white na­tion­al­ists to Char­lottesville, as well as hun­dreds of coun­ter­protesters. The two sides be­gan brawl­ing in the streets be­fore the rally got un­der­way, throw­ing punches, un­leash­ing chem­i­cal sprays and set­ting off smoke bombs. At least one per­son fired a gun. Later, a woman was killed when a car drove into a crowd protest­ing the white na­tion­al­ists.

The law­suit filed in state court re­con­structs the events of the day in de­tail, cit­ing so­cial me­dia posts of the de­fen­dants, me­dia ac­counts and doc­u­ments.

It says the white na­tion­al­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions weren’t func­tion­ing as in­di­vid­u­als ex­er­cis­ing their Sec­ond Amend­ment rights but as mem­bers of a “fight­ing force.”

It asks that they be held in vi­o­la­tion of sev­eral state laws. Oth­er­wise, the law­suit says, “Char­lottesville will be forced to re­live the fright­ful spec­ta­cle of Au­gust 12: an in­va­sion of rov­ing para­mil­i­tary bands and un­ac­count­able vig­i­lante peace­keep­ers.”

The plain­tiffs are be­ing rep­re­sented by the In­sti­tute for con­sti­tu­tional Ad­vo­cacy and Pro­tec­tion at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity and re­gional law firm MichieHam­lett. The Char­lottesville City Coun­cil voted to join the law­suit in a spe­cial ses­sion Thursday morn­ing.

“Our com­mu­nity was in­vaded by pri­vate armies on Au­gust 12 and lives were lost,” lo­cal at­tor­ney Lee Liv­ingston said in a state­ment.

“As we search for an­swers and a way for­ward to­gether, we ex­pect this suit will unify us on at least one thing - a stand against pri­vate armies in­vad­ing the pub­lic square - and give our pub­lic ser­vants who en­force the law a tool to pro­tect all cit­i­zens who gather in pub­lic places.”

The fed­eral law­suit takes a dif­fer­ent ap­proach, ac­cus­ing the white na­tion­al­ists of vi­o­lat­ing state and fed­eral civil rights laws. It seeks a jury trial and asks for mon­e­tary dam­ages and a ban on sim­i­lar gath­er­ings.

“The aim of this law­suit is to en­sure that noth­ing like this will hap­pen again at the hands of De­fen­dants - not on the streets of Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, and not any­where else in the United States of Amer­ica,” it says.

White na­tion­al­ist Richard Spencer, a de­fen­dant in the fed­eral law­suit, told The As­so­ci­ated Press he had just learned of it and didn’t have any im­me­di­ate com­ment.

At­tempts to reach a num­ber of other de­fen­dants in both cases were not im­me­di­ately suc­cess­ful.

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