CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — Attorneys in a civil trial seeking damages from organizers of the deadly Unite the Right rally in 2017 made closing arguments in federal court on Thursday morning in Charlottesville.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case said white supremacist and white nationalist groups organized online, encouraging violent clashes with counter-protesters saying they “wanted to see blood on the pavement.”
Meanwhile defense attorneys opened their portion of closing arguments saying in order for the defendants to be responsible, the violence had to be foreseeable.
There are nine plaintiffs in the case. Those plaintiffs suffered some sort of physical or emotional damages as a result of the violence.
The plaintiffs attorneys were given two-and-a-half hours to put a bow on their case for the jury, while defendants were given three-and-a-half hours in the afternoon to get their points across.
Lawyers for the nine plaintiffs, which include town residents and counter-protesters, framed their final remarks around the inspiration for the white supremacist group’s rally, their racial ill-will and their glorification of violence. They told jurors, white nationalists, like Jason Kessler declared war and called for a fight in Charlottesville in communications prior to the rally.
Additionally, the legal team for the plaintiffs said defendants’ claims for self-defense aren’t a defense to a conspiracy claim, and that the First Amendment doesn’t protect violence or the planning of violence. They also said the defendants can’t blame police for not stepping in sooner to stop things from escalating.
Throughout the trial, defendants who testified have blamed counter protesters for the instigation of violence that culminated in James Fields ramming his car through a crowd of people, killing Heather Heyer. Fields was convicted of murder and several other charges of malicious wounding and is serving a life prison sentence. The defense said Fields killing Heyer was not foreseen.
During the four week trial the defendants have argued their talks in chat rooms and social media before the rally is protected by the First Amendment. Defendants shared communications about about violence, asking about the legality of using cars against protesters.
Lawyers for the defendants also said evidence presented in the case shows rally organizers only agreed to fist fighting, pushing and shoving counter-protesters, not using guns or other weapons.
Jury deliberations are expected to begin on Friday.