Two sisters in rammed car sue white nationalists in Charlottesville rally

Virginia State Police inspect the site where a vehicle hit protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Virginia State Police inspect the site where a vehicle hit protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - Two women injured during the chaos surrounding a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week filed a US$3 million (S$4 million) lawsuit against individuals they said were the organisers and naming more than two dozen right-wing and neo-Nazi groups in a suit accusing them of inciting violence.

Sisters Tadrint and Micah Washington were headed home in their car on Aug 12 when they turned down an open Charlottesville side street where counterprotesters were marching.

Within minutes, a Dodge Challenger slammed into the crowd and rammed into the rear of their car, causing a chain-reaction crash that killed one and injured 19 others.

Charlottesville police have charged 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, with second-degree murder after Heather Heyer was killed in the collision.

The Washington sisters were not participating in the protests and had been visiting a friend when they got caught in a maze of detours.

Lawyers for the Washingtons - Tadrint, 27, who recently finished EMT training, and Micah, 20, who works in the hospitality industry - said at the point their car was hit, they had nowhere to move as bodies flipped over them and onto their vehicle's windshield.

 
 
 

Their car was splattered with blood, and emergency personnel tried to revive Heyer, a 32-year-old counterprotester from Charlottesville, a short distance away.

In their suit, the women assert Fields deliberately accelerated into the group of people on the street "in an attempt to kill and maim as many individuals as possible."

Attorneys for the Washingtons argue Fields' actions were part of a well-orchestrated conspiracy by "Unite the Right" attendees and promoters to "inspire mayhem, homicide and violence," said Timothy Litzenburg of the Miller Firm.

"It's exactly like 1930s Germany," he said. "We want the people who incited this catastrophe to sit in a courtroom and face a jury of normal Charlottesville citizens. That jury can decide what it is that they owe to the citizens of this city."

The Washington sisters were stopped behind a van and waiting patiently, they said in an interview on Tuesday, when they felt the sudden force of the vehicle that struck from behind.

They said they did not know what happened and thought a bomb had gone off. For several seconds, Tadrint Washington said she could not see or hear and had a deep burning in her legs.

When things came back into focus, she said, all she could hear was screaming. It took her awhile to organise her thoughts and realise, "I'm alive."

"It came out of nowhere," said Micah Washington, who was in the passenger seat and conscious after flying forward and hitting her head on the dashboard and windshield.

She saw a body thrown over the side and tumbling over the hood of her sister's Toyota Camry, as well as bodies on the ground. She checked her sister, who was shaking, and tried to calm her.

Micah Washington said she is having a hard time dealing with what she saw as people tried to revive Heyer. "It was something I never thought I'd ever have to experience in Charlottesville in 2017," she said.

The sisters, originally from Mississippi, said they never anticipated they would experience racial violence in their adopted home town.

Tadrint Washington said she hopes the lawsuit will give them a voice and role. "They didn't care about our safety," she said, referring to the rally organisers. "We hope it ends here."

The firm in the lawsuit gained notice for civil suits against the governments of Iran and Sudan, accusing them of providing material support to international terrorists in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa.

"A lot of the same legal principles will translate" in what attorney Jeff Travers and his colleagues expect to litigate as an act of domestic terrorism.

Litzenburg said they are prepared to add more defendants and plan to use statements made by white nationalists in the local and national new media to show that rally organisers approved of the violence that occurred.

 

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