Another lawsuit from a survivor of the Aug. 12, 2017, car attack targets event organizers and 2,000 unnamed individuals, alleging a robust and violent racist conspiracy behind the Unite the Right rally.
The suit was filed on behalf of William “Bill” Burke in May in the Southern District of Ohio U.S. District Court, where it has slowly moved along ever since. Burke was among the dozens of people injured during a vehicular assault by James Alex Fields Jr.
Burke, who attended the rally to protest against racism, testified at both Fields’ state and federal sentencing hearings, detailing his injuries, including a large gash to his head that required several staples to fix. At the hearings, Burke shared not only the physical toll the rally and attack took on him, but the emotional and mental toll, as well.
Burke’s lawsuit alleges that though the rally was ostensibly about a Charlottesville City Council vote to remove a downtown statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, the rally also was intended to explicitly send a message of white supremacy.
“The application for the permit for the Unite the Right rally and event submitted by Defendant [Jason] Kessler claimed that the event would be a protest of the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument, but Defendants also intended that the rally would instill fear in, and terrorize Charlottesville’s minority population (as well as the wider audience watching the event throughout the country) and incite violence,” the complaint reads. “They wanted to use the events of the weekend to intimidate the broader civilian population and recruit more followers to Defendants’ various hateful and violent groups and causes.”
Though the suit collectively names 2,000 unknown John and Jane Does, Michael Fradin, Burke’s attorney, said that is more procedural. Including unnamed parties will allow the suit to be amended to add parties later based on evidence obtained during discovery, he said.
Burke’s lawsuit bears similarities to the Sines v. Kessler suit, filed by area residents in the wake of the rally, but also targets the white supremacist Daily Stormer website and its owners/operators.
The 64-page complaint delves not only into the rally itself, but the lead-up, providing information and quotations from the Daily Stormer website and Discord chats used by organizers and demonstrators of the rally.
Andrew Anglin, who runs the Daily Stormer, and his father, Gregory Anglin, as well as writer Robert Ray, espoused anti-Semitic and racist messages leading up to the rally and encouraged violence, declaring 2017 the “Summer of Hate,” according to the lawsuit.
“Prior to the events in Charlottesville over the weekend of August 12, 2017, Defendant Andrew Anglin made his intentions for Defendants’ presence in Charlottesville clear and known, ‘When the Jews took over our society and turned it into a k--ed-out living hell, they marked their achievement by declaring a ‘Summer of Love.’ ... They took everything away from us. That age is ending now. We are taking back our birthright. This summer, a Black Sun will pass over America. ... I am declaring the summer of 2017 the Summer of Hate,’” the complaint reads.
Within the Discord chats, organizers and those who planned to attend shared violent intentions for the rally, the complaint alleges, with some users going so far as to acknowledge plans to disguise violence as self-defense.
“Defendants took no steps to prevent, or aid in preventing, the intimidating, threatening, terroristic and otherwise illegal conduct they knew was being planned and coordinated,” the lawsuit reads.
Within the complaint, Burke also requests a protective order against The Honorable Sacred Knights, which he alleges has sent threatening text messages to him. The complaint includes screenshots from a phone matching one recently found on KKK recruitment flyers in Bloomington, Ohio.
On Wednesday, James Kolenich, who is representing the Traditionalist Worker Party in this lawsuit and the Sines v. Kessler lawsuit, requested more time to file a responsive pleading, arguing the complex nature of the complaint warrants an extension.
No hearing dates have been set.