Civil rights case related to Aug. 11 and 12 allowed to advance

Published: Jul. 9, 2018 at 8:15 PM EDT
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The federal district court in Charlottesville says a civil rights lawsuit against white supremacists and other affiliated groups can move forward.

In a ruling from Judge Norman Moon, the plaintiffs have shown that the groups came to Charlottesville in August to "celebrate racially-motivated violence against African-Americans, Jews, and their supporters."

According to a release, the case will likely go to trial next year.

"In America, it is not lawful to target individuals or groups for violence based on their race, ethnicity, or religion," said Karen L. Dunn, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case. "The court has now made perfectly clear in a way defendants will be unable to ignore or gloss over: the First Amendment does not protect violence of threats to do violence."

In his opinion, Moon writes the torch-lit rally that took place on the University of Virginia Grounds on Aug. 11 and the violence at the base of the Thomas Jefferson statue in front of the Rotunda constituted intimidation, much as the U.S. Supreme Court has said cross burnings are intimidating.

The lawsuit was filed in October on behalf of several people hurt during the violence of Aug. 11 and 12, including a Christian minister, minority students at UVA, an African-American landscaper, a Jewish dermatologist, and three of the people hit by James Fields, Jr. when he drove into a crowd of counter-protesters.

The defendants in the case include prominent members of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, including Jason Kessler, Richard Spencer, Christopher Cantwell and Fields. Two defendants have been dropped from the case, Mike Peinovich and Hannah Pearce.

To read the full opinion, click on the link in the Related Documents box.