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Sines v. Kessler

United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia
324 F. Supp. 3d 765 (2018)


Facts

In 2017, members of White-supremacist, neo-Nazi, and right-wing militia groups organized a “Unite the Right” rally protesting a Confederate statue’s removal from a Charlottesville, Virginia park. Leaders met in person, then Jason Kessler (codefendant) used an online platform called Discord to organize. Discord conversation included racist jokes and slurs, directions to wear “good fighting uniforms” and bring “picket sign post, shields, and other self-defense implements which can be turned from a free speech tool to a self-defense weapon.” Leaders encouraged throwing torches at counter-protestors and ordered marchers to “charge!” Violence erupted, causing multiple injuries. White supremacist James Fields Jr. plowed his car at high speed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and severely injuring many others. Those injured brought a civil action against Kessler and other organizers, the Ku Klux Klan, various neo-Nazi organizations and associated white supremacists (codefendants), alleging they conspired to engage in violence against racial minorities and their supporters. The claimants also named Michael Peinovich (codefendant), who hosted a racist podcast, appeared on a poster promoting the event, and spoke to followers afterward, but did not allege he participated in the violence or joined in the conspiracy that planned it. Those accused moved to dismiss on First Amendment and other grounds, including that White claimants lacked standing because the rally involved animus against non-whites only.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Moon, J.)

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