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2017 violence: US jury orders white nationalists to pay $25mn as damages

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2017 violence: US jury orders white nationalists to pay $25mn as damages
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Virginia/ US: A United States jury ordered white nationalist leaders and organisations to pay 25 million USD for the deadly violence in the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A month-long civil trial reached the verdict on Tuesday after the jury found the white nationalists liable on four of six charges in a lawsuit filed by nine people who suffered physical or emotional injuries during the two-day demonstrations, Associated Press reported.

Further, the plaintiffs' lawyers plan to re-file the suit so that a new jury could decide on the two claims this jury could not reach a verdict on, lawyer Roberta Kaplan said. She added that the amount of damages awarded was "eye-opening" and sent a "loud message".

The federal lawsuit, funded by the non-profit organisation Integrity First for America, had accused the white nationalists of organising violence against African Americans, Jews and others through conspiracy.

Lawyers for the petitioners brought the 150-year-old Ku Klux Klan Act that passed the post-American Civil War to shield freed slaves from violence and protect their rights. It allows private citizens the rarely used provision to sue other citizens for civil rights violations. It had named some of the well-known white nationalists in the country for plotting the violence.

On August 11, 2017, hundreds of white nationalists crowded for the Unite the Right rally to protest the city's plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee from a public square. They chanted that Jews would not replace them. They surrounded counter-protesters and threw tiki torches at them. A fan of Adolf Hitler rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring dozens. But President Donald Trump did not immediately denounce the white nationalists.

The car driver is now serving a life term in prison for murder and other hate crimes.

However, during the trial, the defendants had used racial epithets and defiantly expressed their support for white supremacy. But they blamed one another or the anti-fascist political movement Antifa for the eruption of violence during the rally. Some testified that they resorted to violence after the counter-protesters initiated the attack.

The court issued default judgements against another seven defendants who refused to respond to the lawsuit.

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