Tuesday, September 27, 2022

6 takeaways from the Unite Right trial in Charlottesville so far

A host of dubious right-wing figures emerged in federal court in Charlottesville, Virginia this week, marking the third consecutive week of an ambitious, long-running civil lawsuit against a dozen individuals and groups accused of planning the deadly 2017 Unite the Right Rally.

But more defendants were expected, as a small handful of defendants have not yet appeared in their own trial.

Nine plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Integrity First for America and their team of lawyers are seeking to bankrupt some of the most influential names in the periphery, “to ensure,” their complaint says, “that nothing like this will happen. will happen again at the hands of the Defendants – not on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, not anywhere else in the United States of America. ”

Among those facing significant financial damage in the lawsuit, two – white nationalists Richard Spencer and Christopher Cantwell – each represent themselves and do a solid job collecting reproaches from Judge Norman K. Moon.

To obtain damages, plaintiffs will need to convince the jury that the defendants have conspired to commit acts of violence motivated by racism and anti-Semitism. They have a whopping 5.3 terabytes of evidence on their side. However, the objections of the plaintiffs ‘attorneys grew increasingly tedious this week as various defense members tried to test witnesses’ knowledge on such disparate topics as the Hebrew scriptures, the Japanese concept of honne and tatemae, and the city-state of Singapore. The judge has repeatedly complained about how long the trial takes – and there is still much to be done.

The jury has heard about this until now.

An impromptu memorial to Heather Heyer, who died during a counter-demonstration on August 12, 2017.
An impromptu memorial to Heather Heyer, who died during a counter-demonstration on August 12, 2017.

BRENDAN SMIALOVSKY via Getty Images

Plaintiffs sustained injuries, ranging from skull fractures and bone fractures to mental health and privacy problems.

Several plaintiffs at the booth excitedly talked about the events of the August 2017 weekend. Some burst into tears.

Elizabeth Sainz testified that the sound of James Alex Fields driving his Dodge Challenger down Charlottesville Road into a crowd of counter-protests “sounded like you took a metal baseball bat and pushed it against a wooden fence.” April Muniz said she “heard the sound of metal hitting bodies … metal on flesh, metal on metal. “

Both women escaped being hit by Fields’ car, but they described the emotional scars they sustained after witnessing the destruction. Some plaintiffs were even more unlucky. Natalie Romero suffered a horrific head injury, which she likened to a war scene in a movie.

Marissa Blair believes this weekend ultimately ruined her marriage. She attended the August 12 event with her fiancé Marcus Martin, another plaintiff who was thrown into the air by Fields’ car, and her friend Heather Heyer, who died after being hit by a car. Blair and Martin got married in 2018 but later broke up, largely due to the friction associated with Martin’s extensive injuries, Blair said.

The event on the night of August 11 also had a long-term impact on some of the plaintiffs. Romero shed tears when he remembered how the demonstrators with torches chanted: “You will not replace us!” She and the plaintiff Devin Willis were part of a group of students who gathered around the Thomas Jefferson statue, who were then surrounded and intimidated by people carrying torches. Sines had a different perspective, as she was standing on a platform above the statue.

“It was like cancer cells attacking a healthy cell – one by one, until they were not even seen, they just swarmed,” she said.

Willis described the emotional impact of the night when he feared for his life.

“I stopped being a sociable, outgoing person,” he said, according to C-VILLE Weekly. “I became very suspicious of people.”

Experts in the medical industry have testified to the huge medical bills that some of the accused may expect to pay for both physical and psychological trauma for the rest of their lives.

White supremacists march with tiki torches across the University of Virginia campus ahead of the holiday "Unite the right" rally in August 2017.
White supremacists march with tiki torches across the University of Virginia campus on the night before the Unite Right rally in August 2017.

Photo by Zach D. Roberts / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The courtroom environment turned surreal when extremists questioned expert witnesses about extremism.

Deborah Lipstadt, a professor at Emory University who is also one of the leading national experts on Holocaust studies, was among the experts called by the plaintiffs. She discussed aspects of extremist culture and testified to the extent to which the organizers and participants of the Union of the Right were inspired by Nazi Germany.

“There was a lot of open anti-Semitism and worship of the Third Reich in the evidence I studied,” Lipstadt told the court, according to the Jewish news site Forward. “Little surprises me, but I was taken aback.”

At one point, she was interrogated directly by Cantwell, who leaves court every day and returns to his jail cell after being convicted on other charges earlier this year. Like the other defendants, Cantwell suggested that much of his online discussions and posts were joking – that even remarks about the “gas poisoning” of the Jewish people were part of a derisive sense of humor. Cantwell asked if Lipstadt believed that “there can be no innocent” racist or anti-Semitic jokes. She said yes, it’s true.

Peter Simi, who studies extremism at Chapman University, also finds himself in the odd position of answering questions from the very people he studies.

“When is a racist joke just a joke?” Cantwell asked Simi, who explained that the nature of the white supremacist language, which he said was ambiguous, meant that it was never really “just a joke.”

The defendants broadcast venomous footage and checked the name “Mein Kampf” in court.

The Defendant Matthew Heimbach, co-founder of the Traditionalist Labor Party, testified that, in his opinion, Fields did nothing wrong by crashing his car into a crowd of people. Defendant Michael Tubbs testified: “That day on the streets of Charlottesville was the most proud moment of my life; I don’t regret it, ”Vice News reports. reporter Tess Owen… Tubbs is associated with the League of the South, an organization of white nationalists.

One particularly embarrassing moment came when Cantwell rose to cross-examine Heimbach and asked, “What’s your favorite Holocaust joke?” There was a pause before Cantwell cleared the question and both laughed.

In his opening remarks, Cantwell managed to bring up the theme of “Mein Kampf”, use the N-word and promote his far-right radio show.

A lot of evidence presented in court confirmed the admiration of the organizers and participants of the “Union of the Right” with Hitler, and some openly declared their love for Hitler in court. However, when confronted with their own racist quotes, some, including Spencer, tried to play down their meaning or present themselves as reformed.

The organizers of Unite the Right have thought out their PR strategy.

The infamous photographs from the August 11 tiki torch march showed a small army of men dressed mostly in white polo shirts and khaki pants – a uniform promoted by Identity Evropa, the white nationalist group identified in the lawsuit. Heimbach revealed that he chose the black uniform as the uniform for his group because it can hide blood, admitting that the blood on the white polo shirt “didn’t look good.” Other reports indicated that organizers are worried that anyone who appears in the Ku Klux Klan robes will harm their cause.

In court, Spencer sought to distance himself from the hated iconography, denying that the tiki torches resembled the KKK, Nazi Germany, or modern racist marches in Germany. Rather, he argued that torches were simply calling “The mystery and magic of fire and darkness.” Likewise, the defendants argued that the Heil Hitler greetings were in fact Roman greetings – part of a well-known attempt to rebrand the hate symbol.

The defendants portrayed the antifa as a major threat during United of the Right, despite scant evidence that violence was used by “both sides”.

In the aftermath of the United Right, then-President Donald Trump held an infamous press conference at which he told reporters that there are troublemakers and good people “on both sides” of the conflict. Thus, the phrase “both sides” has become a contraction of the false equivalence of extreme right-wing extremists and left-wing activists.

Recurring questions from the defense focused on the antifa, a loosely organized anti-fascist group that, following a rally in Charlottesville, turned into a right deer. Cantwell repeatedly demanded to know if the plaintiffs saw anyone with red or black bandanas – the colors associated with communism and antifa, respectively – that weekend, which he said proves that the other party was also conspiring to commit violence. Heimbach revealed that he feared that Antifa members would use improvised weapons such as locks inserted into their socks.

The defendants’ lawyers have also attempted to portray the Reverend Seth Whispelway, the plaintiff and Charlottesville native, as a radical, in part based on his Twitter presence, where he follows some progressive activists. Whispelway revealed that he survived many threats and insults from members of Unite the Right and witnessed a car attack, although he was not injured.

Spencer questioned him in past interviews, trying to prove that Whispelway was “driven by left-wing activism.” But he lost his balance when he began asking about specific aspects of the Christian faith.

“You pastor… it Bible I say, ”Spencer said sarcastically before the judge ordered him to move on.

A disappeared evidence case can never be fully solved.

Certain evidence – such as cell phones, chats, and emails – disappeared before it became evidence in court, irritating the plaintiffs’ lawyers. The defense offered various excuses, including that the phones were broken or lost, or that many online messages were inadvertently deleted from the company’s server. Under pressure in court, various defendants denied any wrongdoing in this regard.

But Heimbach provided new information about what happened in one particular case related to his VK account. (VK is a Russian social network.) Apparently, his ex-wife deleted the account after an argument between the couple over who will take out the trash.

There will be more next week.

Jason Kessler – a white nationalist who received permission to unite the right from the city of Charlottesville – has yet to speak out. Cantwell is expected to answer direct questions as well.

The trial is scheduled for November 19.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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