Posted on November 27, 2021

Charlottesville Liability and a Riot Near You

Scott H. Greenfield, Simple Justice, November 24, 2021

It’s understandable that many will cheer the outcome of the trial against the neo-Nazis and white supremacists stemming out of the “Unite The Right” march in Charlottesville, culminating in James Fields running down and killing counterprotestor Heather Heyer, 32. {snip}


Whether the life sentences being served by James Field for mowing down Heyer was inadequately decisive is unclear, but may reflect some expectation that the criminal justice system should criminalize anticipatory “toxic spectacles” and prevent them from happening in the first place. How that could be is also unclear, but likely hinges on the criminalization of racism and hate that as yet would violate the First Amendment.

So is this verdict, this outcome, a great, stunning moment of liability that will “deter hate groups” in the future? But the law doesn’t distinguish between conspiracies of the right and those of the left. There is no limiting principle that says a riot promoted by Black Lives Matters, in which violence is raised, promoted and similarly foreseeable, will not end in a jury verdict of liability against its promoters, whether for the burning of buildings in Kenosha or a murder in Portland.

But they’re on the side of good, you say? The law recognizes no good or bad side of speech or belief. The First Amendment precludes the government from distinguishing good thoughts from bad ones, no matter how passionately others do. And there need not be an explicit agreement to engage in violence, to harm people, loot stores, burn down buildings, even if this conduct was committed by random crazies whose identities were no more known to organizers than James Fields’ was to Richard Spencer.

One difference, however, stands out. Unlike the empty pockets of white supremacists, the  pockets of the BLM folks are bulging with donations. If found liable, a judgment against them might well get paid. With the outcome in this action against “Unite The Right,” the legal path has now been established to obtain compensation for those people and businesses who were foreseeably damaged by the conspiracy of the left.