Jury awards millions in damages for 'Unite the Right' violence

More than $25m will be sent to people who suffered damages in dangerous protests

In a mixed verdict, a jury demanded on Tuesday that white nationalist leaders and organisations pay more than $25 million in damages for violence that erupted during the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

After a nearly month-long civil trial, the jury became deadlocked on two major claims but found the white nationalists liable on four other counts in the lawsuit filed by nine people who suffered physical or emotional harm during the two days of demonstrations.

Lawyer Roberta Kaplan said the plaintiffs’ representatives plan to refile the suit so a new jury can decide the two claims this jury could not reach a verdict on.

She called the amount of damages awarded for the other counts “eye opening”.

“That sends a loud message,” Ms Kaplan said.

The verdict is a rebuke to the white nationalist movement, particularly for the two dozen people and organisations accused in a federal lawsuit of orchestrating violence against African Americans, Jewish people and others in a reportedly meticulously planned conspiracy.

The jury began its third day of deliberations on Tuesday after it also deliberated for more than 15 hours on Friday and Monday.

Tuesday's disagreement on the two major claims in the case was also shown at one point on Monday, when jurors indicated they may be having trouble reaching a unanimous verdict on several allegations.

Hundreds of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, 2017, ostensibly to protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen Robert E Lee.

During a march on University of Virginia grounds, white nationalists surrounded counter-protesters, shouted, “Jews will not replace us!” and threw burning tiki torches at them.

The next day, an avowed admirer of Adolf Hitler intentionally drove his car into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring 19.

James Alex Fields Jr of Ohio is serving life in prison for murder and hate crimes for the car attack. He is also named as one of the accused in the lawsuit.

During the trial, the accused attempted to distance themselves from Fields. Several gave evidence that they resorted to violence only after they or their associates were attacked.

The lawsuit is being funded by Integrity First for America, a non-profit civil rights organisation.

Donald Trump, the president at the time, touched off a political firestorm when he failed to immediately denounce the white nationalists, saying there were "very fine people on both sides".

Updated: November 23rd 2021, 9:00 PM
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