Right-Wing Groups Want Charlottesville Trial Moved for Fear of Attacks


Right-wing organizers of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, asked a judge to move an October civil trial to another city out of fear that police will allow violent protesters to attack them with impunity.

City officials have failed to properly discourage protesters who may attend the trial or clarify past statements identifying the city as the “capital of the resistance,” White nationalist group Identity Evropa and the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker’s Party said in a court filing Friday.

“What they have objectively done is roll out a red carpet to anyone, especially anyone of a ‘punch a Nazi’ persuasion, to come to Charlottesville for this trial with the confidence that they are very unlikely to face any serious consequence for even criminal misbehavior,” the groups said.

Street clashes broke out in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, between the far-right groups and their detractors, with counter-protestor Heather Heyer being killed when struck by a car. The rally was organized in part to protest the city’s planned removal of a statue of Confederate General. Robert E. Lee.

Lawyer Roberta Kaplan filed the lawsuit on behalf of students, faith leaders and other locals who were physically and emotionally injured in the riot. At a hearing last week, Kaplan said moving the trial would waste months of security planning and wouldn’t deter protesters.

“We have spent a lot of time working out security in Charlottesville,” Kaplan, whose Manhattan-based firm specializes in public-interest cases, said at the hearing. “We believe it will be secure.”

But at that hearing, U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon expressed concern about safety, saying that moving the trial to another Virginia city in the same district could reduce tension.

Almost all the defendants agree. Matthew Heimbach, a White nationalist rally organizer who is quoted in Kaplan’s complaint praising Adolf Hitler, said at last week’s hearing that Kaplan wants to “try and drag us in some sort of ritualistic manner back to Charlottesville.”

The suit seek unspecified financial damages for emotional distress and other injuries, as well as judgments that the organizers conspired to incite a riot and violently harass protesters based on racial, religious and ethnic animosity.

The case is Sines v. Kessler, 3:17-cv-00072, U.S. District Court, Western District of Virginia (Charlottesville).

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