The Charlottesville Case

UVA campus vigil for Heather Heyer

In August 2017, hundreds of white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis invaded Charlottesville, Virginia.

On August 11, they marched with torches and surrounded a group of students and community members on the University of Virginia campus. The white supremacists pushed, punched, and threw lighted torches. Religious leaders at a nearby church sheltered in place for fear that they would be next.

On August 12, white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched in military style to Emancipation Park, shouting racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic slurs. They charged through a line of interfaith clergy. They attacked and assaulted countless citizens. After police dispersed them, James Alex Fields, Jr., a defendant in this case, drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

With this lawsuit, the Charlottesville community is fighting back. This case sends a message to every hate group in the country: Americans will not give in to violence and hate. We will defend the dignity and equality of all people. And we will ensure this never happens again.

UVA campus vigil for Heather Heyer

Timeline

January 5, 2018: Amended Complaint Filed

Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, including two new named plaintiffs who were injured by James Alex Fields, Jr.

October 11, 2017: Complaint Filed

Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against white supremacists and hate groups for conspiring and causing violence in Charlottesville. The complaint alleged violations of the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act and various state laws.

The Plaintiffs

Plaintiffs are members of the Charlottesville community. They are parents and students, a Christian minister, businesspeople, and others who peacefully protested when white supremacists invaded their hometown. Plaintiffs were specifically targeted on the basis of their race, religion, and ethnicity or because they stood up for the safety and civil rights of others. Plaintiffs were injured by the Defendants, including three who were injured when James Alex Fields, Jr., drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters. As stated in the Complaint, Plaintiffs hope "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."

Charlottesville Residents Decry White Supremacist Rally

The Defendants

Defendants include 25 prominent white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and hate groups that planned, promoted, and executed the violent acts in Charlottesville. Defendants include Jason Kessler, a white nationalist who led the organizing efforts for the August 11-12 rally, Richard Spencer, a white nationalist who believes in "ethnic cleansing," Matthew Heimbach, a white nationalist who said, "Of course we look up to men like Adolf Hitler," and James Alex Fields Jr. Also named as Defendants are hate groups like Vanguard America, the Traditionalist Worker Party, and the League of the South.

Defendants came to Charlottesville with clubs and shields, pistols and assault rifles, helmets and pepper spray. They killed Heather Heyer and injured dozens more. They didn’t come to protest peacefully. They came with a plan to provoke violence.

Loyal White Knights Rally

The Legal Case

After the Civil War, Congress passed laws to guarantee the civil rights of black Americans and combat the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror in the South. In their complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants, motivated by racism and bigotry, conspired to commit assault, battery, and other acts of violence and intimidation in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the KKK Act of 1871, and numerous Virginia laws. Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.