In October, two months after the violent “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, at which counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed, 11 plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit in the Western district of Virginia against white supremacist leader Richard Spencer and the organizers of the rally. The lawsuit was filed by a new nonprofit, Integrity first for America, in an attempt to hold the defendants accountable for the injuries and harm they had caused.
One of the plaintiffs had suffered a stroke; two were struck in the car attack. The others include University of Virginia students, ministers and doctors. “The aim of this lawsuit is 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,” it says, according to the Washington Post.
The city of Charlottesville, local businesses and neighborhood associations filed a second lawsuit in Charlottesville Circuit Court in October accusing the organizers of the rally, “leading figures in the white nationalist movement and their organizations, as well as private militia groups and their leaders, of violating Virginia law by organizing and acting as paramilitary units. It asks for a court order prohibiting ‘illegal paramilitary activity,’” reported the Post.
“The suits take two different approaches to block white nationalist groups involved in the “Unite the Right” rally — or those like them — from holding similar events. They also appear to anticipate a constitutional fight; both seem to try and pre-empt any arguments about free speech and gun rights,” reported newsy.com.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, although he condemned the white supremacists, viewed the lawsuits as “very dangerous” measures that aim to “stretch and bend” the First Amendment. University of Virginia constitutional law Professor Micah Schwartzman told the Post that both lawsuits anticipate the defendants’ claims that their actions were constitutionally protected. “These complaints are sophisticated in that way,” he said.