“The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice that was created to deal with issues like this wasn’t going to do anything. And so I thought to myself, somewhat naively I guess, ‘Okay, if the federal government, the DOJ, isn’t going to do something here, I guess I will.’”
As the fifth year anniversary of the tragic and deadly violence in Charlottesville approaches, founding partner and “modern-day legal giant” Roberta (“Robbie”) Kaplan spoke with The Daily Progress to reflect on the historic $24 million jury verdict that we obtained on behalf of our brave clients in Sines v. Kessler, the very real limitations of our justice system in situations like this, and why it’s so important to remain vigilant against organized white supremacists who plan violence in order to achieve what they call a “white ethnostate.”
Though the violence occurred five years ago, Charlottesville is still processing the trauma of the day.
“I would never presume to think that our case could create or even promote racial reconciliation in Charlottesville,” Robbie said, discussing the effects of the verdict. “What I hoped that it would do—and I think it has—is provide a sense of peace for the plaintiffs, who I think are not only very proud of what they did, but really formed strong and deep bonds with each other during the case, which they still have. And I think we created a historical record in the documentary evidence and testimony that will continue to exist going forward. Hopefully, in less crazy times, people can look at that record, and there shouldn’t be too much dispute about what actually happened and who did what.”
Unfortunately, Charlottesville was not an isolated incident, with numerous acts of white supremacist and neo-Nazi violence playing out across the country and the world in recent years.
"If you had told me [in 2017] that after Charlottesville there were going to be a long series of racist shootings and murders, committed by people on the same websites and message groups as the defendants in our case and who were connected to and believed in the same White Supremacist ideologies, I honestly don’t know if I would have believed you,” Robbie said. “But that is absolutely what happened, whether it’s Buffalo or Pittsburgh or New Zealand….If you had told me that they would then use very similar tactics and strategies to conspire to overturn the 2020 presidential election, I would have fallen out of my chair. In a lot of ways, what happened in Charlottesville in August 2017 was remarkably prescient in a very depressing way.”
“I think that not talking about it out of fear of provoking them is definitely not a solution,” Robbie said. “I think one solution is talking about it even more. We need to be more vigilant against any and all groups who want to use violence to obtain authoritarian, racist and fascist ends. I’d like to be able to say that our trial prevented that from ever happening ever again, at least in Charlottesville. But I don’t have a crystal ball that would allow me to predict the future. I do know that the best way to prevent it from happening again is continuing to organize and to shine a light on what the white supremacist movement is, what it does, and what they are willing to do to create what they call a ‘white ethnostate’ in this country that belongs to all of us.”
The Daily Progress is the sole daily newspaper in the vicinity of Charlottesville, Virginia. It has been published daily since September 14, 1892.
Read the full article here.