Updated: Oct 21, 2021
Integrity First of America (IFA) has filed a federal lawsuit against organizers of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA. Hopefully, the outcome will send a clear message that such racist violence has no place in America.
The Unite the Right rally brought together several white nationalist groups who carried torches while chanting anti-Semitic, homophobic, and racially offensive slogans, such as “Jews will not replace us.” Dozens of people were injured by mob violence, and one woman was killed when a rally participant drove his car into a group of counter-protestors.
The lawsuit alleges that there was a conspiracy by the defendants to commit racial violence. “The violence in Charlottesville was no accident,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants spent months carefully coordinating their efforts, on the internet and in person. They encouraged each other with messages such as: 'If you want to defend the South and Western Civilization from the Jew and his dark-skinned allies, be at Charlottesville on 12 August,’ and ‘Next stop: Charlottesville, VA. Final stop: Auschwitz.’”
Since the beginning, defendants in the suit have been downplaying their accountability, describing the rally as loosely organized and not intentionally violent. However, text messages to and from defendant Elliott Kline, a key organizer, suggest the contrary. In fact, they show significant planning, coordination, and funding, fueled by racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of hate.
This case follows a long history of using lawsuits to hold hate groups accountable. Lawsuits have dismantled extremist groups such as the KKK, the Aryan Nations, The Daily Stormer, a Neo-Nazi website, by going after their operations and finances. However, even though those groups were crippled decades ago, white supremacists went underground and resurfaced under a new organization with new leaders, yet mostly keeping to themselves. Historically they were not too political; they did not broadcast their beliefs. That is, until Donald Trump came along.
Sadly, the problem extends far deeper than a rally in Charlottesville; it is more profound than Confederate statues. Charlottesville is just one example of bigotry and racism. On January 6, 2021, Trump encouraged his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol”, falsely suggesting that Congress could still overturn the election results.
Such rallies, protests, and hate crimes have attacked African Americans, Muslims, Jews, and other immigrants, and anyone the white nationalists believe is ‘replacing’ white Americans. The IFA is a leader in calling out such injustices and acting on those calls.
Although the case doesn’t go to trial until later this month, the IFA has already had a significant impact in dismantling some of America’s most well-known white supremacist groups. Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer calls the case ‘financially crippling.’ “The alt-right is dead,” he said during an interview.
The IFA lawsuit is the only current legal effort to take on the vast leadership of the violent white nationalist movement. It sends a clear message that violent hate has no place in America. We commend its efforts. A victory in this case, would provide a legal model for others to hold racists and antisemitic leaders accountable for hate crimes. We will be watching.
Mark M. Bello, a trial lawyer, is the author of “Betrayal at the Border" and other ‘ripped from the headlines’ Zachary Blake Social Justice Legal Thrillers available on Amazon.com and other online booksellers. For more information, please visit www.markmbello.com. Mark also is co-host of the new podcast, Justice Counts, now streaming.