Some of the white supremacist groups that organized last year’s violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, have agreed not to return to the city, while admitting no liability for clashes that left one counterprotester dead.
But other groups have refused to respond to the Virginia city’s lawsuit or remain committed to battling against it, saying their First Amendment rights are at stake.
One of those groups, American Warrior Revolution, lashed out at the coverage of the August rally and said the white supremacists who marched are still being maligned as the instigators of the clashes.
“We believe that freedom of speech applies to everyone without others using violence against those who have a difference of opinion. At every event we attend, we tell both the far right along with the far left ‘your freedoms of speech applies right here without making threats against those who believe differently,’” a member of the group said in a Facebook message to The Washington Times.
“If the city mayor, police chief and attending officers would have done their job on that day, in that city, a woman wouldn’t have lost her life,” the member said.
The Aug. 11-12 “Unite the Right” gathering saw hundreds of white supremacists rally against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park, then battle with hundreds of counterprotesters who flocked to the city to oppose them.
In the wake of those clashes, one of the white supremacist supporters drove into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman. Two state police troopers also were killed when their helicopter crashed while they monitored the situation.
Fearing repeat rallies, the city of Charlottesville and some of its businesses sued 25 white supremacist organizers, arguing that they had acted as armed paramilitary outfits in violation of state law. They asked a court to block the groups from returning to the area.
Eleven of the defendants have agreed to a settlement that prohibits them from returning in units of two or more people while carrying weapons.
“The consent decrees entered into by these militias and their commanders provide exactly what the plaintiff neighborhood associations, businesses, and the City sought in this lawsuit — an order preventing these groups from coming back and functioning as private armies outside the control of state authorities,” said Mary B. McCord, senior litigator at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, which is representing the plaintiffs.
Jeff Schoep, commander of the National Socialist Movement, said he and his organization settled this lawsuit, but have another one pending.
“These suits are simply ‘lawfare’ aimed at trying to bankrupt Nationalists, and tie us up in the courts for simply assembling and attending a rally, where we were attacked by violent leftists, antifa, and communists who were throwing balloons filled with urine, and what seemed like endless tear gas or pepper spray barrages and other chemicals being thrown along with rocks, bricks, and other weapons used against us,” Mr. Schoep said, adding his group did no wrong.
Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia, New York Light Foot Militia, III% People’s Militia of Maryland, League of the South Inc., National Socialist Movement, Christian Yingling, George Curbelo, Gary Sigler, Spencer Borum and Michael Tubbs also have settled the claims against them.
But six others have decided to challenge the lawsuit. Jason Kessler, who helped organized the “Unite the Right” rally, is one of those defendants.
“He is excited to be part of the defense of free speech and other civil rights in the modern United States. Included in that defense is the litigation pending in Charlottesville. The City and Jason are negotiating regarding a settlement but remain far apart at this time,” James Kolenich, Mr. Kessler’s attorney, told The Times in an email.
In addition to Mr. Kessler, Redneck Revolt, Traditionalist Worker Party, Vanguard America, Jason Kessler, Elliott Kline and Matthew Heimbach are litigating the case.
Six defendants are considered in default, while two have not yet been served with the complaint. A spokesman for the plaintiffs would not comment why there’s been delay with regards to two of them.
Virginia Minutemen Militia, American Freedom Keepers LLC, American Warrior Revolution, Eugene Wells, Richard Wilson and Joshua Shoaff are the defendants who have not yet responded to the lawsuit.