Photo credits: Daniel Hosterman
This week, attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild Central Virginia chapter, working on behalf of Redneck Revolt, signed a consent decree which formally ends the City of Charlottesville’s lawsuit against Redneck Revolt related to the white supremacist rally on August 12, 2017. This decision was made after an unfavorable ruling by the Charlottesville Circuit Court on Redneck Revolt’s motion to dismiss the case or exclude them as defendants.
In their statement of defense of Redneck Revolt, National Lawyers Guild pointed out that “when white supremacists came to Charlottesville, anti-racist protesters did not let them run roughshod over the community’s principles. In contrast, the City of Charlottesville instructed its officers to stand down on August 12, 2017 and has since arrested and charged three local residents who were victims of white supremacist violence that day. The City now continues its attacks on those who supported our community that day with a targeted harassment lawsuit against Redneck Revolt, an anti-racist network committed to providing community defense to anti-racist demonstrators and their communities.” In the ten months the City has spent litigating this smoke and mirrors lawsuit, it has still failed to accept any public responsibility or hold itself accountable for its abject failure to protect the community from white supremacist violence, or to provide the public with any information about what it intends to do differently if a similar event were to take place in the future.
In fact, an investigation and 220 page report from a former US Attorney found that “an independent review of the circumstances surrounding an August rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to a woman’s death found [that] police were unprepared and failed to protect the public.” In the months since the City of Charlottesville announced its lawsuit against the armed white supremacist groups who terrorized their city last August, many residents of Charlottesville have spoken out publicly and requested that Redneck Revolt be removed from the suit.
Congregate C’ville released a statement against the conflation of the anti-racist community defense group with the armed, dangerous white supremacists that actually threatened the Charlottesville community last summer. “There is a marked difference between the armed white supremacist groups who invaded Charlottesville with the intent to do harm and the armed anti-racist groups who came to Charlottesville to assist in supporting and protecting our most marginalized communities. According to many reports, Charlottesville officials grossly underestimated the threat to our community, leaving us vulnerable and without protection. Armed anti-racist groups showed up to protect those who were being overtly targeted by white supremacists. Additionally, Redneck Revolt provided protection during our Mass Prayer Service on August 11th, when white supremacists rallied with tiki torches across the street and we received threats describing mass violence at the service.”
NLG lawyers for Redneck Revolt had challenged the city’s authority to bring this type of harassment suit, but in the lead-up to the trial, the court ruled in favor of the City. The judge’s decision earlier this week to deny the motion to dismiss meant that the case would go to trial. Further, that meant that members of Redneck Revolt would need to be deposed, and that thousands of dollars would need to be spent on the legal defense. In accepting the settlement, Redneck Revolt is subject to some restrictions within the city of Charlottesville, but according to the judge’s opinion ruling, “the individual defendants will still be able to come exercise their free speech rights, and assemble with each other, as well as carry a firearm, so long as such is openly carried (unless the person has a concealed weapon permit), and not concealed or brandished or used in a threatening way.”
This ruling is only the latest in a pattern of decisions by the Charlottesville courts that have upheld and reinforced state repression of anti-racist activists, particularly those who defend our communities by confronting white supremacist violence. Those that stood against the white nationalists in our streets last summer know very well that the state will always seek primarily to protect itself and existing systems of power and structural oppression, and that justice and liberation will not come through the courts.
With that in mind, we in Redneck Revolt recognize that the consent decree does not alter our core principle of community defense, or lessen the commitment we hold to show up for each other and our communities. Rather than continue to spend energy and resources on a trial where the state’s preferred outcome is clearly predetermined, we are choosing to end the litigation and focus our energies on the many important fights ahead.
We have decided we would much rather donate the money we otherwise would have spent on a fruitless trial to the Charlottesville Community Resilience Fund. Donating those thousands of dollars to practical and needed work rather than using them on our defense throws into stark relief the unnecessary waste of resources squandered by the plaintiffs in pursuit of this conclusion. For the last several months, they could have been directing their financial and legal efforts to addressing the real suffering and harm created by the failures of the City and the malevolent actions of white supremacists on August 12th, 2017.
We invite all of the business plaintiffs who joined the City in bringing this suit, to make similar contributions to the Community Resilience Fund, which has a material impact on the daily lives of people in Charlottesville. We also strongly encourage all of our other former co-defendants to take some small responsibility for their impact on the local community by donating to the fund as well, which supports people who face undue hardships imposed upon them due to structural oppression, including through the criminal legal system. We especially hope that our former co-defendants stay far, far away from the good people of Charlottesville, and that there is never another need to defend that community from open marches of white nationalists carrying torches and inciting violence.
As far as the purpose of this drawn-out civil suit conflating anti-racists with Nazis, we feel that Ascaso Ferrer said it best: “Now Georgetown Law – which likes to paint themselves as a defender of progressive causes – targets two Anti-Fascist groups who were in Charlottesville to defend themselves and the community from white supremacist terror when the police refused to do so. It almost seems as if they would rather that the people have been at the mercy of the same alt-right thugs they claim they are trying to stop. If they aim to stand by their stated ideals, why are they going after Anti-Fascist groups who helped to defend the community when the police would not? Where were they when Deandre Harris was facing charges from the very people who brutalized him? Where are they when Donald Blakney faces charges and Corey Long is being jailed for standing up to the very same fascists they claim to oppose? People committed to stopping the advance of a revanchist white supremacist movement can do without ‘allies’ like this.”
Media inquiries about the case can be directed to Redneck Revolt’s attorney, Jeff Fogel, (434) 984-0300.