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Being racist could become expensive

Melvin B. Miller

It has become increasingly more expensive to be a racist. Federal court last week assessed $25 million in damages against nine leaders of the “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Va. Prominent defendants were Richard Spencer of the alt-right in the U.S.; Jason Kessler, event organizer; and Christopher Cantwell, a neo-Nazi podcaster.

Five white nationalist organizations were assessed $1 million each and 12 individual plaintiffs were awarded $500,000 in punitive damages each. Lawyers for the convicted predicted that collection of damages would be unlikely since “the defendants in this case are destitute, none of them have any money.”

In his jury instructions the judge explained that to engage in a conspiracy all the parties did not have to forge an agreement or meet in the same room or even know one another. The main point was that they all shared an objective. They engaged in a race based violent conspiracy that is illegal under the 1871 federal anti Ku Klux Klan Act.

The trial of the case was delayed because of the pandemic. Nonetheless, the severity of the jury decision might discourage similar events such as future “Unite the Right” projects.

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