Local activist and filmmaker Tanesha Hudson has filed a $400,000 lawsuit against various Charlottesville government and police officials, alleging that her constitutional rights were violated at the 2017 Unite the Right rally.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in Charlottesville Circuit Court, Hudson alleges her First, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights were violated at the deadly white supremacist rally two years ago.
The complaint names the defendants as former City Manager Maurice Jones, former Charlottesville Chief of Police Al Thomas, CPD Detective Jim Mooney, CPD Sgt. Ronnie Stayments and CPD Sgt. Lee Gibson.
According to the complaint, Hudson — who was attending the rally with members of a Jehovah’s Witness clergy — was denied equal protection by the named police defendants at the rally and further alleges that disproportionate protection was offered to white supremacist protesters attending the rally.
“We were struck several times with flag poles, pepper sprayed and spit on throughout the morning,” Hudson wrote. “Sgt. Gibson was the first to deny me equal protections. Then Sgt. Stayments denied me equal protections and then Lt. Mooney. I went up to officers not once but twice, only to be denied the equal protections they were giving right-wing protesters.”
After being denied assistance by those three members of the CPD, Hudson wrote that she called and texted Thomas multiple times and never heard a response in return.
“There was nothing put in place by the City government or the City Police to assure a safety net of individuals choosing to exercise their 1st amendment rights,” Hudson wrote. “1000 plus people crammed into a small space with some heavily armed with no form of Police protections in the plans to have the unite the right protesters and counter protesters separated resulted in pure failure and the city failed to protect individuals on many levels.”
Hudson cited various prior court cases, arguing that city officials and police officials are constitutionally obligated to ensure public safety of people they know are likely to be attacked.
According to the complaint, Hudson seeks $400,000 in compensatory damages. It is unclear whether the suit will continue in Charlottesville Circuit Court, as the venue for lawsuits spurred by purported constitutional violations are typically filed in federal courts.
Hudson could not be reached for comment Monday.
Another lawsuit filed Monday by rally organizer Jason Kessler also claims police violated free speech rights. In his lawsuit, filed in the federal Western District Court of Virginia, Kessler claims Jones and CPD and Virginia State Police officials declined to intervene in violence at the rally in an effort to declare an unlawful assembly and deny him his First Amendment rights.
No hearing dates have been set in Hudson’s lawsuit.