A slew of unsavory right-wing leaders appeared at a Charlottesville Federal Court this week. This marks the third week in a long-running civil suit against twelve individuals and organizations accused of plotting the fatal Unite the Right rally.

A greater number of defendants was to be expected as only a few have yet shown up at their trial.

The nine plaintiffs in the suit — which was brought by the nonprofit Integrity First for America — and their legal team aim to bankrupt some of the most influential names on the fringe right “to ensure,” their complaint says, “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.”

Among those facing substantial financial damages in the suit, two ― white nationalists Richard Spencer and Christopher Cantwell ― are each representing themselves, and are doing a solid job racking up rebukes from Judge Norman K. Moon.

The plaintiffs must prove to the jury that they conspired with the defendants to perpetrate acts of violence motivated by racism or antisemitism in order to win damages. The evidence against them is staggeringly impressive at 5.3 terabytes. Yet objections from plaintiffs’ attorneys became increasingly weary this week as various members of the defense sought to probe witnesses’ knowledge of such disconnected topics as the Hebrew scriptures, the Japanese concept of honne and tatemae, and the city-state of Singapore. The judge has repeatedly complained about just how much time the trial is taking ― and there’s still plenty left to go.

So far, jurors are hearing this.

A makeshift memorial to Heather Heyer, who died during a counter-demonstration on Aug. 12, 2017.

The injuries suffered by plaintiffs range from broken bones and fractures to mental and physical problems.

Many plaintiffs got emotional as they recounted events from August 2017. Some of the plaintiffs broke down with sobs.

Elizabeth Sines testified that the sound of James Alex Fields driving his Dodge Challenger down a Charlottesville road into a crowd of counterprotesters “was like if you took a metal baseball bat and ran it against a wooden fence.” April Muñiz said she “heard the sound of metal hitting bodies … metal on flesh, metal on metal.”

Both women avoided being struck by Fields’ car, but they described emotional scars from bearing witness to the scene of destruction. A number of plaintiffs had worse fortune. Natalie Romero was subject to an abrasive head injury. She compared it to being in a war scene.

Marissa Blair credits the weekend for ending her marriage. She had attended the Aug. 12 event with her fiancé, Marcus Martin, another plaintiff who was thrown into the air by Fields’ car, and her friend Heather Heyer, who died after being struck by the vehicle. Blair and Martin married in 2018 but later split, in large part over friction related to Martin’s extensive injuries, Blair said.

Some plaintiffs also suffered from lasting injuries due to the event that occurred on Aug. 11. Romero teared up when she recalled hearing the torch-wielding demonstrators chant, “You will not replace us!” She and plaintiff Devin Willis were part of a group of students gathered around a statue of Thomas Jefferson who were then surrounded and harassed by the men with torches. As she stood on the platform, Sines was able to see things from a completely different perspective.

“It was like watching cancer cells attack a healthy cell ― one by one, until you couldn’t even see them anymore, they had just been swarmed,” she said.

Willis spoke of the fear he felt that night and how it affected his emotions.

“I stopped being an outgoing, sociable person,” he testified, according to C-VILLE Weekly. “I became very suspicious of people.”

Experts from the medical profession testified about the huge medical costs defendants will have to cover for psychological and physical injuries for the rest their lives.

White supremacists march with tiki torches through the University of Virginia campus the night before the "Unite the Right" rally in August 2017.
White supremacists marched with tiki torch through the University of Virginia campus the night prior to the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally.
Photo by Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Surreal moments occurred in the courtroom when extremists interviewed expert witnesses regarding extremism.

Deborah Lipstadt, a professor at Emory University who is also one of the nation’s leading experts in Holocaust studies, was among the experts called by the plaintiffs. Her testimony covered extremist culture, and she testified that Unite the Right participants and organizers were in some way inspired by Nazi Germany.

“There was a great deal of overt antisemitism and adulation of the Third Reich throughout the evidence I looked at,” Lipstadt told the court, according to ForwardThe Jewish News Site. “Very few things surprise me, but I was taken aback.”

Cantwell interrogated her at one point. Cantwell leaves court every day after being convicted and then returns to his prison cell. Like other defendants, Cantwell has suggested that much of his online discussions and messages were made in jest ― that even remarks about “gassing” Jewish people were part of a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Cantwell asked whether Lipstadt believed “there’s no such thing as an innocent” racist or antisemitic joke. She said yes, that’s true.

Peter Simi is a Chapman University student who studies extremeism. He was also in the strange position to answer questions from people who are the same as the ones he studies.

“When is a racist joke just a joke?” Cantwell asked Simi, who explained that the nature of white supremacist language ― which he said engages in doublespeak ― meant that it was never really “just a joke.”

Defendants aired noxious views and name-checked “Mein Kampf” in court.

Defendant Matthew HeimbachFields was co-founder and testified to that he did not do anything wrong when he drove his car through a group of people. Defendant Michael Tubbs testified, “It was the proudest moment of my life on the streets of Charlottesville that day; I have no regrets about it,” according to Vice News reporter Tess Owen. Tubbs has been involved in the League of the South (a white nationalist group).

One particularly cringeworthy moment came when Cantwell rose to cross-examine Heimbach and asked, “What’s your favorite Holocaust joke?” There was a pause before Cantwell withdrew the question, and both men laughed.

In his opening statements, Cantwell managed to bring up “Mein Kampf,” use the N-word and promote his far-right radio show.

A plethora of evidence shown in court documented the Unite the Right organizers’ and participants’ admiration for Hitler, and some declared their love for Hitler openly in court. When they were confronted about their racist comments, some responded with, including SpencerThese people tried to minimise them or make themselves appear as being reformed.

Unite the Right’s organizers thought carefully about their PR strategy.

Infamous photos from the Aug. 11 tiki-torch march showed a small army of men dressed largely in white polos and khaki pants ― a uniform promoted by Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group named in the lawsuit. Heimbach testified that he settled on black to be the uniform for his group because it could hide blood, admitting that blood on a white polo was “not a good look.” Other messages showed organizers worried that anyone showing up in Ku Klux Klan robes would hurt their cause.

Spencer tried to discredit hateful iconography in court. He denied that the tiki torch was evocative Nazi Germany, the KKK or current racist marches in Germany. Instead, Spencer claimed the torches only evoked memories. “the mystery and magic of fire and darkness.” Similarly, defendants have claimed “Heil Hitler” salutes were actually Roman salutes ― part of a well-known effortThe hate symbol should be rebranded

Defendants painted antifa as a big threat during Unite the Right, despite scant evidence that “both sides” were violent.

Donald Trump, the then-President of the United Right after Unite the Right. infamously gave a press conference in which he told reporters there were both troublemakers and good people “on both sides” of the conflict. The phrase “both sides” thus became shorthand for the false equivalency between far-right extremists and left-wing activists.

The defense asked a series of frequently repeated questions about antifa. This loosely-organized anti-fascist organization became an right-wing boogeyman following the Charlottesville protest. Cantwell repeatedly demanded to know whether plaintiffs saw anyone carrying red or black bandanas ― colors associated with communism and antifa, respectively ― that weekend, which he said would prove the other side had also conspired to be violent. Heimbach said that he was worried antifa would resort to makeshift weapons like locks and socks.

Rev. also was painted by attorneys representing the defendants. Seth Wispelwey is a Charlottesville native and plaintiff. His Twitter account, which he uses to follow progressive activists, was used partly by the defendants’ attorneys to portray Rev. Wispelwey claimed that he received a number of threats from Unite the Right activists and was even present at the car attack. However, he wasn’t hurt.

Spencer grilled him on a past interview in an effort to prove that Wispelwey was “motivated by left-wing activism.” But he lost his footing when he went down a line of questioning about specific aspects of Christian faith.

“You are a Pastor. It’s the Bible I’m talking about,” Spencer said sarcastically before the judge ordered him to move on.

This case may not be resolved completely.

Certain piece of evidence ― such as cellphones, chats and emails ― vanished before they could become evidence in the trial, which irritated the plaintiffs’ lawyers. The defense has made various excuses, including that the phones were broken or lost, or that a trove of online messages was deleted from a company’s server unintentionally. The defendants all denied that they were guilty of any wrongdoing when the matter was brought up in court.

Heimbach, however, did provide new information regarding what occurred in one particular case concerning his VK Account. VK is an Russian social media website. After an argument over the matter of who would pick up the garbage, the ex-wife apparently deleted his account.

There’s more to come next week.

Jason Kessler ― the white nationalist who got a permit for Unite the Right from the city of Charlottesville ― has yet to take the stand. Cantwell can still answer direct questions.

It is expected to continue until Nov. 19.

Source: HuffPost.com.

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