On Wednesday, a federal jury found all defendants in a lawsuit stemming from the “Unite the Right Rally” — a violent demonstration led by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia — guilty of violating a Virginia state conspiracy law.
The plaintiffs argued that they had broken an 1871 bill to protect African Americans against vigilante terrorism. They also targeted a number of white supremacists and neo Nazis who organized or attended the rally, such as neoNazi Jason Kessler, and conspiracist Richard B. Spencer.
Also among them are Christopher Cantwell, Michael Peinovich, Andrew Anglin, and James Fields — a white supremacist accused of deliberately ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters during the rally, leaving 35 injured and one dead.
The jury specifically found the defendants guilty of violating multiple claims brought by the plaintiffs, including the violation of a state conspiracy law and the violation of a law “prohibiting racial, religious or ethnic harassment or violence,” according to CNN.
According to BuzzFeed News‘ Christopher MillerA number of defendants will be required to pay $500,000 each for punitive damage. Among those named include Spencer, Cantwell, Kessler, Robert “Azzmador” Ray, Nathan Damigo, Eliott Kline, Matthew Heimbach, Matthew Parrott, Michael Hill, and Michael Tubbs. Five white nationalist organizations will spend $1 million on the same conspiracy count.
During the rally, organized back in August of 2017, demonstrators chanted a variety of anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric, including: “Jews will not replace us.” In court, Spencer attempted to distance himself from this slogan, claiming: “I’m ashamed of it. Those are not my sincerely, thoughtful beliefs.”
A group of Charlottesville residents were injured by the violence at the rally and filed the suit in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Virginia on October 11, 2017. Integrity First for America represented the plaintiffs, a non-partisan nonprofit that was formed in response to the rally. Roberta Kaplan, a commercial litigator, also led an outside legal team.
“This is a HISTORIC legal victory against the forces of violent hate that threaten our communities & our democracy,” the group said in a statement following the jury’s decision.