Woman Recalls Total ‘Terror’ of Charlottesville Car Attack
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (AP) – A woman who was pushed aside when a car slammed into counter-protesters at a 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville described a scene of ‘utter terror’ as she testified Monday to have seen her fiance bleed on the sidewalk and learn later that a friend was killed.
Marissa Blair spoke in week three of a civil trial who seeks to hold white national organizers of the Unite the Right rally responsible for the violence that has erupted. Nine physically or emotionally injured people, including Blair, are suing the organizers of the rally, alleging they plotted to commit violence during two days of protests in Charlottesville.
“I was confused. I was scared. I was worried about all the people who were there. It was a scene of complete terror. It was blood all over the place. I was terrified,” Blair said, melting away. in tears several times during his testimony.
The driver of the car, James Alex Fields Jr., a self-proclaimed admirer of Adolf Hitler from Maumee, Ohio, is serving his life in prison for murder and hate crimes. One woman was killed and dozens were injured in the car attack.
The lawsuit seeks damages from two dozen white supremacists, neo-Nazis and organizations that the plaintiffs say were involved in a plot to incite violence.
Hundreds of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, 2017, apparently to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Clashes between white nationalists and anti-racist protesters erupted on both days, prompting authorities to declare the August 12 rally an “illegal gathering” and order crowds to disperse. It was after this announcement that Fields crashed his car into a peaceful group of counter-protesters.
The violence shocked the nation and a political firestorm erupted after then-President Donald Trump failed to strongly denounce white nationalists, saying there were “very good people on both sides “.
The lawsuit is funded by Integrity First for America, a nonprofit organization formed in response to the violence in Charlottesville. Some of the country’s best-known white nationalists are cited as accused, including: Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right” to describe a loosely connected group of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and others; Jason Kessler, main organizer of the rally; and Christopher Cantwell, a white supremacist who became known as the “Crying Nazi” for posting a tearful video when an arrest warrant was issued for his arrest for assault for using pepper spray on counter-demonstrators.
The plaintiffs include four people who were injured in the car attack and others who were abused during a torchlight rally at the University of Virginia on August 11 or during protests the following day.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs showed the jury a vast collection of chat room exchanges, social media posts and other communications in which the defendants use racial epithets and discuss plans for the protests, including handguns. to bring.
They also rely on a 150-year-old law passed after the civil war to protect freed slaves from violence and protect their civil rights. Commonly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, the law contains a rarely used provision that allows individuals to sue other citizens for civil rights violations.
The defendants claim that their language in many of their chat room exchanges was hyperbolic and is protected by the First Amendment. They also say their guns and combat rhetoric was only intended in case they had to defend themselves against counter-protesters.
Blair said she suffered minor physical injuries when her fiance pushed her aside as the car sped towards the crowd. But she suffered flashbacks, panic attacks and depression after witnessing the attack and grief over the death of her friend Heather Heyer, 32.
“My emotional scars were much worse than my physical scars,” Blair said.
Blair and her fiance, Marcus Martin, who were seriously injured when hit by Fields’ car, were married nine months after the attack. But Blair said the physical and psychological impacts of the event took a toll on their relationship and they are now divorced.