What reparations in the face of hatred? American far-right figures and organizations were ordered Tuesday to pay more than $ 25 million to victims of a protest they organized in Charlottesville in 2017, which turned into a tragedy. After a month of trial in federal court, a jury estimated that twelve leaders and five ultra-right groups could be held responsible for the violence that left one dead and several injured in this Virginia city.
The jury accepted four of the six grounds for prosecution that appeared in the complaint filed by victims of the clashes, and failed to agree on two others. Despite everything, the complainants were delighted to have obtained satisfaction. “We now hope that this decision will encourage other voices to (…) denounce white supremacy,” they commented in a statement sent by the organization Intergrity First for America which supported them. “The decision sends the message that our country does not tolerate violence motivated by racial or religious hatred,” added their lawyers Roberta Kaplan and Karen Dunn.
“Very good people on both sides”
In the summer of 2017, hundreds of white nationalists demonstrated, under the banner of the “Unite the right” movement, to protest against the town hall’s decision to unbolt a statue of General Robert Lee who led the southern states to slavery during the summer. from the Civil War. The rally began on the evening of August 11 with a march of neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan parading in the light of their torches.
The next day, clashes broke out between these supporters of white supremacy and anti-racist protesters. A neo-Nazi sympathizer, James Fields, then drove into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing a 32-year-old young woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring 19.
Republican President Donald Trump had denounced violence but he felt that there were “very good people on both sides”, which had led to him being accused of complacency towards the far right. James Fields has since been sentenced to life imprisonment.
The civil proceedings, launched in 2017 by victims, progressed more slowly, in particular due to the lack of cooperation from the defendants. During the trial, most of them did not deny their beliefs, including racist ones, but denied having planned the violence. In the 1980s and 1990s, civil complaints filed by anti-racist activists brought several extremist organizations to their knees, forced to cede their property to pay the compensation set by the courts.