Charlottesville, VA – The lawsuit against leading white supremacist organizers and groups began trial on October 25, 2021 at the federal courthouse in Charlottesville, Virginia. Attorneys with civil rights nonprofit Integrity First For America are representing victims of racist attacks at the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville in August 2017.
Additional Resources via Integrity First For America: Trial & Deposition Video Transcripts • Searchable Database of Plaintiff’s Trial Exhibits
Unicorn Riot’s rush transcript from the day’s proceedings is below. While the official court transcript is more comprehensive, UR’s live notes sometimes contain visual descriptions of elements not noted by the court reporter, including the visual appearance of exhibits shown at trial, movements of parties in the courtroom, and happenings in and around the courthouse.
NOTE: Rush transcripts are generated from Unicorn Riot’s live tweets posted in real-time while observing trial proceedings from inside the courthouse media room. Quotations and descriptions written here are not always precise verbatim quotes and sometimes use paraphrasing or shorthand to quickly capture and convey exchanges during court hearings. There may be some errors regarding details like jury numbers, exhibit numbers and dates as well as typos and missing punctuation. These rush transcripts do not capture every single moment, but are our attempt to provide the public with as much direct access to the trial as possible until full court transcripts are made publicly available at a later date.
Rush transcripts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16
Read Unicorn Riot's live tweets from trial proceedings - Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19
Day 5 – Oct 29, 2021 (Collected from this tweet thread)
Court is beginning now for Day 5 of the Charlottesville ‘Sines v. Kessler’ Unite The Right federal lawsuit trial.
The jury is being called in, Judge Moon will be reading them some more jury instructions about conspiracy law and the First Amendment.
Moon also mentions that “Zoom is not working for the attorneys who are not here” but says they can just use the call-in line for now
Moon apologizes to the jury for calling them in late and says a power outage in the courthouse last night “threw off all the electronics”
Moon tells jurors “it’s your duty to decide the facts, it’s my duty to instruct you as to the law” and says “attorneys may not state the law other than as I say it is… I don’t make the law up… it was the law before this case began… I’m just a messenger here…”
Judge Moon reiterates that “first a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons..to accomplish an unlawful purpose… each member becomes the agent of every other member… plaintiffs must prove the conspiracy had an unlawful objective…
co-conspirators may have legal and unlawful objectives… a conspiracy can have multiple objectives…” Judge Moon says plaintiffs need not prove a formal or written agreement… just than “an overall unlawful objective was shared”
Moon: “by its very nature a conspiracy is clandestine and covert… therefore plaintiffs may prove a conspiracy by circumstantial evidence” including “evidence of a defendant’s relationship with other members of the conspiracy… attitude and conduct…”
Moon going into more details of requirements for conspiracy such as an “overt act”
“One may become a conspirator without knowing all the details of an unlawful scheme or the identities of all the conspirators…” – Judge Moon
Natalie Romero (Plaintiff) Testimony
First witness being called by the plaintiffs now – it’s Natalie Romero, one of the plaintiffs in the case
Plaintiffs’ attorney Karen Dunn will be doing the questioning. Romero is taking the stand wearing a black coat and her hair in a bun, was taking deep breaths as she walked in
Judge Moon says that parties outside the court who need to listen in “are not getting the feed” so is pausing while the court addresses that
Natalie Romero is asked to introduce herself to the jury – says she’s 24 and from Houston, TX, went to college at UVA and graduated in August 2020, went to school in Houston at a magnet program before that
Romero graduated from UVA in global development studies, graduated w a distinguished major, made the Dean’s list in her last semester.
Dunn asks Romero to describe the various scholarships she received before and during college due to her academic achievements, one of them allowed her to go to UVA with a cohort of students from one of the programs called Posse
Romero says her room & board at UVA was paid for by an Army ROTC scholarship
Dunn asks Romero about any awards she received in HS, she says “a lot” and mentions a few of them
Romero says she was the first from her family to go to college. Currently she lives in NYC, recently worked for a nonprofit dedicated to civic engagement, through that worked w Albemarle County Public Schools, also works as a translator for a mentorship program in prisons
Dunn: The jury in this case has heard a bit about the events of August 11-12, there was a torch march on August 11 and a rally in the park on August 12. Were you present at either of those events?
Romero: yes, both
Dunn: I’m gonna first ask you generally what you were doing in summer 2017
Romero: I had an internship so I stayed in Cville, working on environmental issues and I worked as a server at a Greek restaurant in Mechanicsville
Dunn: what did you like to do outside of academics?
Romero: I was part of the peer mentoring program – we would go on hikes, running, walking, dancing, social stuff, what students would do
Dunn: after your internship ended what did you do?
Romero: I went back to Houston and got married, visited family
Dunn: what day did you return to Charlottesville
Romero: August 11
Dunn: lets return to that day- what were you doing the afternoon of August 11, 2017
Romero: came back to Cville from Richmond, put my head out the window like a dog smelling the air, its fresher than Houston… that’s when i took my last selfie of my face without, well, what it looks like now…had early dinner w friends
Dunn: why did you go to the Jefferson statue on UVA campus?
Romero: I wanted to go there with friends and people that made me feel safe
Dunn: What time did you arrive approximately?
Dunn: how many ppl did you go with?
Romero: 2 i think
Dunn: were any other plaintiffs in this case with you? Who?
Romero: Devin Willis
Dunn: what happened at the statue?
Romero: we weren’t there long before they arrived… my friends that were there, we hugged each other
Romero: when we heard the roaring, we wondered what we should do, we linked arms and held hands and started to sing
Dunn: How many ppl were around the statue when you first got there?
Romero: Maybe 15, there wasn’t enough ppl to cover the whole statue when I arrived… not that many
Dunn: what were you wearing?
Romero: I was wearing flip-flops, a tank top, shorts
Dunn: were you carrying any weapons, any mace, anything you could have used as a weapon?
Dunn: did you see anyone with you that had a weapon or any objects to throw?
Dunn: You said that at some point when you and the other ppl that you were with were at the statue, that you heard something, can you explain that?
Romero: (sighs) I just heard loudness, almost like thunder, like the earth was growling… I couldn’t make it out at first…
Dunn: did you hear any words
Romero: eventually, “blood and soil”, “white power”, there’s another one that I hate repeating because I hear it in my nightmares, I hear it when the phone buzzes, I hear the same cadence to the “you will not replace us”- that one was just so terrifying, to hear it the whole time
Dunn: after you heard those things, what did you do?
Romero: looked down, closed my eyes, prayed a little bit… I didn’t have anything to cover my face and really wished I did… I was terrified
Dunn: How close were you to the statue?
Romero: very close
Dunn: do you remember who was standing next to you?
Romero: there was someone on my left, and Devin was on my right, we were holding hands, and just looking at each other like ‘we’re gonna be ok’
Dunn: when you said that ‘they’ came, who did you understand ‘they’ do me?
Romero: the men and people with tiki torches
Dunn: could you tell how many people with tiki torches there were from where you stood?
Romero: not at first… they were coming from either side, it felt like 100s of ppl, angry, upset, screaming, yelling
Dunn: when looking from the statue up to the rotunda, what did you see?
Romero: the swarms of people coming down at us, the sky was dark with the flame, it was like lit up, but dark and angry, it just felt like war, like a scene straight out of a movie
Romero: and then it just happened so quickly, they surrounded us so quickly. Wasn’t at all how I expected my night to go
Dunn: how did you expect it to go?
Romero: i expected to see some friends and then go, have a good night
Dunn: why did you say you wish you had something to cover our face?
Romero: once they surrounded us they came right at me and Devin, saying very specific things to us, I thought I would be followed and attacked, my family…
Dunn: what things did they say to you?
Romero: like, ‘go back to where you came from’, ‘what are you doing here’, ‘stupid b*tch’, monkey noises…
Dunn: I’m gonna ask you to look in the witness book at exhibit PX-2695 – Dunn pulls up a photograph of students standing around the Jefferson statue with a banner reading ‘VA Students Act Against White Supremacy’
Romero identifies herself in the photo where you can see the back of her head
Dunn: can you tell the jury what they’re seeing in this photo?
Romero: a group of students around the statue.. basically surrounded 360
Dunn pulls up exhibit 3011 – another photo taken from the rotunda steps which shows hundreds of alt-right marchers with torches surrounding the small group of students at the Jefferson statue
Dunn: at any point did you consider leaving where you were at the base of the statue?
Romero: absolutely, i wanted to escape, run away, but there was literally no way
Dunn: and so what did you do?
Romero: I tried to keep my head down, I felt like a mouse, trapped… Salem witch trial… like I’m about to be burned at the stake… Devin and I were the only people of color at that side and it was very obvious there were screaming at *us*
Dunn: what violence did you observe yourself that evening?
Romero: they started to swing the torches in our direction… there’s literally nowhere that I could move to protect myself from them.. .i tried to jump up on the statue but there’s no platform to stand on…
Romero: I thought I was going to get trampled… I had flip flops on… I’m 5’4… they threw a torch at us and it landed centimeters away from my foot
Romero: mace was sprayed at us, mind you we weren’t doing anything, we were singing and holding hands…
Dunn: did you witness any physical violence?
Romero: I saw them attack people
Dunn: you said earlier that you couldn’t get out. How long did that last?
Romero: it felt like forever
Dunn: did you eventually get out, how did that happen?
Romero: I ran in the direction of the students holding the sign… tried to exit though the sid
Dunn: to what extent did you observe your friends try to leave as well?
Romero: i was just like, which way, how do we leave, and whatever direction we went… we couldn’t really see an exit. I don’t know how I did it but we just covered ourselves and tried to get out..they were spraying, throwing stuff, I saw them use the torches violently, swinging
Dunn: where did you go when you left?
Romero: I went to the other side… I had already been maced, there was somebody with a wheelchair.. they were getting their eyes washed out and there was a couple of other people including me getting their eyes washed out
Dunn: what did you do after you left the rotunda?
Romero: I stood to the side, they started to chant and declare victory type kind of stuff… they were really excited, I just stood there and watched that happen and on the left side there was police that lined up and started to tell people to leave…
Dunn: what did you do when you got home?
Romero: I couldn’t eat, I didn’t know what the effects of the spray was so I didn’t know that you shouldn’t shower… I got in the shower to cry and as the water was hitting me it was like reliving it all again bc it started to go back into my eye and my entire body…
….I sat there in pain from the stinging of it… trying to make sense of what I had just witnessed – Romero
Dunn: the next day was August 12, saturday morning, when you got up what did you do?
Romero: we got ready and made our way into town
Dunn: when you said you got ready what did you mean?
Romero: students and professors had planned speeches and stuff
Romero: i figured because it was nighttime that was why they felt they could do that
Dunn: Did you go to Emancipation Park on August 12?
Romero: yeah I mean I didn’t go into the park but I walked past it
Dunn: what were you wearing on saturday?
Romero: a pink UVA hat, a green shirt, some black pants, black shoes, and a purple raincoat
Dunn: Did you have anything with you?
Romero: I had a small traditional Columbian satchel, to hold my phone
Dunn: did you have any weapons, anything you could use as a weapon, a sign or banner or flag?
Dunn is pulling up a “demonstrative” exhibit, a map showing locations of Emancipation Park, 4th Street, Market Street in Charlottesville
Zooming in on the Emancipation Park portion of the map, Dunn asks Natalie Romero to describe which direction she approached the park from
Dunn: what did you see when you arrived in the area?
Romero: barricades in the park, groups of people inside and outside… inside the park there were already a couple of the protesters with shields and uniforms, you could see groups of them
Romero: outside the park on the sidewalk… there were clergy, churchgoers singing church songs…some of them were on the floor… they were in a line ,and on the other end there was groups of protesters that were coming in in lines, uniformly in single file line… they were coming in with a lot of things… – Romero
Dunn: when you say protesters who are you talking about?
Romero: i’m talking about them, people I identify as neo-nazis
Dunn: and who do you mean as protesters?
Romero: community members that were there to oppose them
Dunn: did you see anyone you recognized?
Romero: i saw a famous pastor but I don’t remember his name… has a beard
Dunn: as far as you could see did any people in the line of clergy have any weapons with them?
Dunn: were they blocking the road?
Dunn: you said that you saw some protesters, white nationalists, can you explain what you saw?
Romero: I saw hammers… makeshift poles, I saw a long steel pole with nothing on it, i saw flags with different symbols…shields of all kinds…people with camcorders recording people’s faces for doxing, one of the camcorder persons had Hitler on his t-shirt, I saw swastikas…
Dunn: at any point that morning did you witness firsthand any physical violence?
Romero: one of the filed lines that were coming in… I saw the shoving of certain clergy, of students, at that intersection I saw… multiple instances
Judge Moon asks Romero to point out where she was on the map and describe intersections
Romero: a lot of violence at the intersection and right in front of the library
Romero: a lot of violence was happening in this corner from the park side, and then right here when they were walking up, they, the protesters with their shields.. and then where the clergy was there were lined up here in single file singing, they weren’t blocking the street…
Romero: a lot of them were up there on the steps (to the park) yelling, throwing things, throwing liquids, yelling at people, spitting at people, a lot of people were coming from both directions…
Romero: they started to attack the counter-protesters, they attacked women with their bats and their makeshift poles, some other folks would wrap whatever flag that they had and use that…
Dunn: you mentioned shields, what did you see with regards to the shields?
Romero: i saw some Xs on the shields, circular symbols… i saw someone walking around with a hammer…
Dunn: that morning, not including the car attack, did you personally experience any violence?
Romero: yes, do i have to?… At this intersection there was a white police car there blocking the street…there was a group of women alongside the cop car….
Romero:… when I saw the group of women, white women, some older, younger, I decided to join them at the very end of the link, it wasn’t a lot, it was a small line. I guess I was on the edge of where the car was…and the protesters in uniform, it looked like 2 groups were together… and when they saw us they were like “these bitches” etc, they were saying really rude things about woman, saying things like “run through them, it doesn’t matter…”
Romero: i thought we were a small group of women, we’re not doing anything, why would they do anything, I’m with a group of white women, I’m a light skinned latina, they might not noti…I didn’t see a reason… but no they came directly at me and spit on my face, called me mean names, said I should go back to where I came from…they pushed me and threw against the cop car… they had no reason to interact with us…they had.. so much space to go around… I got spit on by people who hate me and think that I should not be alive… – Romero
Dunn: you said you were thrown up around the cop car, can you explain a bit about that and what happened after that?
Romero: they went around us, it was files of them.. they directed each other to do that, one of them was like “it doesn’t matter, do it..”.. they were so happy…
Romero: they went around us, I was just in shock… after that I turned and I believe the police had already declared an unlawful assembly, I was hearing loud noises trying to make out what it was…
Romero describes the direction she took leaving the park after police declared an unlawful assembly
Dunn: I hate to ask you this but I do want to ask you what were some of the things that were said to you
Romero: ‘go back to where you came from’ I heard multiple times, at some point someone called me a spc, and the other ones that I said earlier
Dunn: please explain what was happening when you were walking away from the park
Romero: we, the students that I was with and others, walked towards an area where there was swings
Dunn: walking east on Market street?
Dunn pulls up exhibit 2929, a copy of an email Romero sent to her Posse scholarship advisors who were checking on her: “hey, yeah well the park is pretty insane right now. The [neo]-nazis released many bottle of tear gas and [mace] and did stampeded on us.”
Romero said she sent that email right after being assaulted by the police car
Judge Moon calls for 20 min recess
Judge Moon is back in the courtroom now, Natalie Romero’s testimony should resume shortly
Jurors are filing back in now
Karen Dunn (plaintiff attorney): when you were talking about the violence you saw, was that inside or outside Emancipation Park?
Natalie Romero (plaintiff and current witness): both – the park had metal barricades around it, and there’s a set of stairs… there was some stuff on the staircase, some stuff outside the library, and other stuff on the street
Dunn: what acts of violence that you described earlier took took place inside the park?
Romero: none of it i think
Dunn: eventually did you end up at the intersection of 4th & Water street?
Romero: yes, eventually
Dunn: how did you happen to end up at the intersection of 4th & Water?
Romero: at the other park where we were, someone let us know nazis were harassing people at Friendship Court so we were walking in that direction
Dunn: when you got to the intersection of 4th & Water, please describe what was going on
Romero: i arrived… on the left side, there was another group of people coming from this side… people were playing beats, i heard cowbells, cheering and chanting, bc it was two groups of people coming together… you could tell that they were counter-protesters…
Dunn: please tell the jury , Ms. Romero, what happened after you turned up 4th street
Romero: It happened very quickly. I think I was taking a Snapchat video… I didn’t get to finish the video…someone said ‘turn left’..we started making a left..really quick, it was like you heard the commotion.. I couldn’t tell what it was but i was pretty close to the front…
…it all happened so quick…there was a, we passed by other vehicles, people inside were smiling…they were clearly trying to make their way through, I was on the left side… just walking. I’m passing a black truck…I’m with Chelsea and…
…then I get hit and the next thing I know is just darkness and hearing a long beep and thumps.. compares it to “war scenes where they were just hit and its flashing… couldn’t see too much but I just felt dripping and it’s warm on my face…” – Romero
“…. I was afraid that if I fell asleep… [I] could die… I thought I was about to die… these are my last seconds of breath, I need to call my mom right now… i couldn’t stand though so I’m just aimlessly waving my arms…” -Romero
“I was hit directly by the car… I flipped and then I slid… i think i hit… and flip on the side and the impact just [describes landing]… i heard someone pull me… I felt it…
…I believe that if I hadn’t been pulled he would have run over my legs, I have other friends whose legs were run over…the flashes, the noise, a lot of people are trying to talk to me… trying to keep me awake… people are asking me what I need, I don’t know what I need…”
Natalie Romero describes not knowing where her phone was, someone pulled her onto the sidewalk and “I was holding onto a pole because I just wanted to sleep but knew if I fell asleep I might not wake up… two people picked me up… I couldn’t walk so they.. took me” to ambulance
Dunn: when you say the ambulance couldn’t make its way to you, what do you mean
Romero: people were on the ground
Dunn: at the time did you understand what happened?
Romero: no, not yet
Dunn pulls up exhibit 1334(?) – it’s a picture of Natalie Romero right after the cat attack – several people are helping prop her up against a street pole. Her face is covered in blood
Dunn: what is the jury seeing in this picture?
Romero: they’re seeing some strangers pouring water on the wound
Dunn: they’re strangers to you, did you ever find out who they were?
Romero, crying: no, I wish that I did
Dunn pulls up exhibit PX329(?) – shows Natalie Romero with her head wrapped in a bandage, still on the sidewalk at the scene, as someone is “wiping some of the blood off my face…”
Dunn pulls up PX3034, a side shot of Romero with her head wound bandaged and someone helping wipe the blood off of her face
Romero: “yes, that’s me”
Dunn: what is the jury seeing in this photo?
Romero: “they’re wiping my face, I’m holding onto the pole… this is actually the image that my mother was shown to identify me. She couldn’t identify me in the other photos…”
Dunn: you said earlier that the ambulance could not reach you because there were people… can you explain what you saw all around, if you recall?
Romero: chaos, blood, people didn’t know what to do
Romero: you see domestic terrorism in the news or random places that weren’t in my life, that’s what it looked like
Romero describes two of her friends walking her to the ambulance, says she lost consciousness once she was placed inside the ambulance
Dunn: do you remember where you were when you regained your consciousness?
Romero: I regained consciousness in the hospital
Dunn: when you woke up in the hospital, what was your physical situation?
Romero: my neck is casted.. parts of my legs were casted up…there was all kinds of stuff on my arms… didn’t realize until later that my entire back was like Freddy Krueger
Romero: at first I couldn’t remember who I was for a second… or what happened to me, noone really wanted to tell me. Some of the scholarship people were there. I asked the nurses what happened to me and they said “you were hit by a car”.
Romero: I asked them “am i going to be able to walk… am I paralyzed?”, noone answered me, they just started at me, noone could say yes or no… so i sat there crying and just fell back asleep….
Romero: It was the fourth time I woke back up that they said it would be difficult but they thought I would be able to walk
Natalie Romero is describing the cuts and bruises and other injuries she found all over her body in the aftermath. “Severe concussion, skull fracture, lip laceration, shattered root of a tooth among other things”
Dunn pulls up PX-3043 – its a picture of Romero in a hospital gown with her head bandaged, her face swollen bruised and her lip swollen and stitched up
“This is a selfie I took later, I couldn’t use my phone for a couple of hours… when I woke up I couldn’t remember the password to my phone…that sent me into panic… how can I forget something that I use every single day” – Natalie Romero
Dunn shows PX-3033, another hospital photo of Romero
Dunn asks Natalie Romero how long she stayed in the hospital, Romero says she was there for two days.
Dunn pulls up PX-3037, another hospital photo
Romero says the photo is from “after they allowed me to shower”, it shows bruises all over her face, head and neck
Dunn: I know this is hard, how does it feel to look at these photos today?
Romero: I haven’t seen these in so long… it’s hard
Dunn: please describe to the jury your physical state when you left the hospital
Romero: I had to leave in a wheelchair…the next day my grandma was there
Romero: i was on so many meds at that point I just wanted to sleep all the time, was half awake, half present
Dunn: where did you stay when you got out of the hospital?
Romero: I had just moved so my bed wasn’t really set up yet…my lofted bed, I couldn’t get up there, I couldn’t raise myself up… so I wasn’t able to go to my apartment… at first I went to a friend’s house…
Romero describes being “on a wheelchair with sunglasses on all the time.. inside a MattressFirm.. buying my first bed”
Dunn pulls up another photo showing remaining scrapes and bruises on Romero’s face, Romero says the photo is from “a week and a half later or less” – various gashes on her face are still healing
Dunn: you said you were diagnosed with a skull fracture and had stitches in your head, what related issues did you have as a result of that?
Romero: sensitivity to brightness… these papers hurt to look at, these lights above me… i had severe dizziness…
Romero: it hurt to read… it hurt to do anything, I couldn’t focus…
Dunn pulls up PX-2970 – its a text message Romero sent to her godparents on August 14 saying “I can’t talk on the phone it hurts”
Dunn shows PX-2928, another text from Romero to one of her scholarship cohort saying “And my head hurts a lot”
Dunn shows PX-2937, a November 5 2017 text from Romero that reads “also have a MEAN headache”.
Dunn asks how long her headaches lasted, Romero says “they haven’t really stopped…it hurt to hear myself speak… the headaches didn’t really go away they just got less severe and less constant…”
Romero says she is a “big reader” but “can’t really do that anymore… I work on my laptop a lot as you do in college… I can’t afford to print out everything… had to ask for accommodations” for PDFs and e-books assigned in classes
“I had to change everything on my laptops and on my phone to be yellow and in dark mode… make everything bigger so that I can see them without straining my eyes… I lost a lot of basic things, the ability to be outside in the sun.. the ability to run…” – Romero
Dunn pulls up PX-2955, a text Romero sent on August 18 2017 saying “[What’s] wrong with my eyes? They hurt [too]”
Dunn pulls up PX-2968, a similar message Romero wrote in February 2018 to a group chat where she wrote “my eyes hurt”. Says she received medical treatment for issues w her eyes, and had issues with her balance “balance was hard even after I got off the wheelchair…”
Romero: “they told me that the concussion through off the crystals in my ear… the crystals that sit on the hairs in your ear…I had to see a therapist that would just lay there with my head in her lap and move my head… to try to realign the crystals in my ear”
Romero said she also saw a specialist for her eyes multiple times a week, sat in a dark room to retrain her eyes
Dunn asks Romero to explain the timeline of getting out of the wheelchair and using a cane – “I had the wheelchair for a couple months and used a cane for a couple months… the doctors gave me a gold cane so that it was in style”
Dunn pulls up PX-2972, a text message Romero sent on Sept 18 2017 saying that “my teeth hurt because I got hit on that side of my mouth”. Dunn asks her about details of medical treatment related to her teeth and the lip laceration
Romero: “I had to get a root canal but we didn’t realize until a month later that it was actually an issue of the tooth and not the lip…”
Dunn: have the issues with your appearance (teeth etc) affected your confidence?
Romero: so much, it’s not just about the appearance… speaking, being myself, when I came here I was one of the few Latinas at UVA….
Romero: my goddaughters will ask me what happened to your face, what’s that thing on your face, talks about seeing herself as “ugly” while her face was healing
Dunn pulls up PX-3266, a spreadsheet of Natalie Romero’s certified medical records
Dunn: how did your injuries effect you academically?
Romero: a lot… I had spent the summer trying to learn Arabic and was talking a whole bunch of other classes that would have allowed me to double major… I didn’t end up being able to
Romero: I was planning on studying abroad but I couldn’t do that… since i was already fully scholared I would have been able to do those programs at a very low cost… I missed all the opportunities…
Romero said she was working on studying nursing in Nicaragua but “now that’s out the window”
Romero: not being able to be in my routine really destroyed my academics, I worked really hard to not be taken out of my classes that year… I had to do medical withdraw from school…
Romero talks about risking losing her scholarship due to it being time-based on certain semesters
Romero says the school was being “helpful with accommodations” but kept struggling with nightmares about chants and torches, with the alt-right coming back to town afterwards said she “didn’t feel safe in my own town…in my own bed”, took medical leave in October ’17
Dunn: when you say ppl are coming back to Charlottesville what did you mean?
Romero: protesters that had come on the 11th and the 12th came back multiple times in the months after… they had mini-rallies and things at UVA and in Charlottesville…
Dunn pulls up PX-2987 – a text or email Romero wrote saying “I’m taking a medical withdrawal. I was hit by the Nazi here in Charlottesville two months ago. And a lot has been going down here. I just need the break.”
Romero says UVA eventually granted her medical leave but she didn’t graduate on time
Dunn: How did it feel to have to withdraw from school?
Romero: terrible, like this is completely knocking me off my path
Dunn: did you seek counseling or therapy following the car attack, what diagnoses did you receive?
Romero: acute stress, anxiety, PTSD, amongst others
Dunn: what anxiety and PTSD symptoms did you have?
Romero: I would have panic attacks and flashbacks, I couldn’t do certain things or go to certain places, I couldn’t leave my house, I hated walking outside by myself… i started to starve myself… a lot of isolation, triggers, I have the steps that I do now to calm myself
Dunn: did you have these problems prior to August 11-12?
Dunn: what else did you do to manage your symptoms?
Romero: when I got on medical leave I got a dog so I would have a reason to go outside, I got a rescue puppy
Dunn shows a letter from UVA’s Student Health Dept doctor saying Romero needs to travel with a support animal, referencing PTSD and functional limitations. Romero reads the letter out loud
Dunn: why did you make the decision to come to Charlottesville and testify here today?
Romero: (chuckles) because I’m crazy
Romero: I’ve spent four years hiding in my home (sobs).. I’ve spent a lot of time hiding myself from the world.. I want closure… I want to move on… I want to be normal
Dunn: thank you Ms. Romero, we appreciate your testimony here today
Karen Dunn is done direct examination of Natalie Romero. Cross-examinatin begins now, starting with James Kolenich (Kessler/Damigo/IE)
Kolenich asks Romero if she knows who Kessler and Damigo are, she says yes. Asked if she saw them at the torch march, Romero says she doesn’t know.
Kolenich asks Romero if she recognizes the Identity Evropa logo, she says she isn’t sure
Kolenich asks Romero if she saw Jason Kessler or Nathan Damigo on Aug 12, 2017. Romero says she’s not sure
Kolenich: all the evidence you were just looking at, you didn’t know any of that before you filed the lawsuit, did you?
Romero: what do you mean, what evidence?
Kolenich: i’ll withdraw that
Kolenich: why do you think Jason Kessler has anything to do with your injuries?
Romero: because of the plannings
Kolenich: what do you know by your own knowledge of Kessler in the planning?
Romero: I was a UVA student and students knew all about him, things that he did
Kolenich: what specifically do you mean about things that he did
Romero: speeches and other things
Kolenich: are you saying that because he gave speeches it caused your damages?
Kolenich: you learned about the planning and the other things… you learned about that from people helping you with the lawsuit, is that right?
Romero: not necessarily, its kind of stuff in the open?
Kolenich: are you referring to stuff on the internet or stuff he did in the community?
Romero: stuff in the community
Kolenich: what do you know yourself about planning Jason Kessler engaged in for August 11-12?
Romero: at this point I can’t pin it down but if you showed me some of the evidence I could show you
Kolenich: you sued Kessler in October 2017… so what did you know in October 2017, if you remember, about what Jason Kessler did to cause your injurues?
Romero: I don’t really know how to answer
Kolenich: what I’m getting at is, there’s people who helped you with this lawsuit…
Judge Moon: she hasn’t said anything on direct about Mr. Kessler..the jury has to decide the case on the evidence so the fact that she didn’t know who all was involved..she doesn’t personally have to know all the details…it’s obvious the complaints were filed by lawyers…
Kolenich: do you have anything to add about what you do or don’t know about Kessler’s or Damigo’s planning activities?
Kolenich: no further Qs
Cross-examination by Richard Spencer (pro se) of Natalie Romero now
Spencer: did you know about Richard Spencer, that is myself, before the events of August 11-12?
Spencer: could you have recognized me?
Romero: I knew your face but sometimes I confused you with other people
Spencer: would you have recognized me more or less during the events?
Spencer: you attended the torchlight rally, did you at any point see me during those activities?
Romero: I don’t remember
Spencer: did you see me at all that night?
Romero: what were you wearing?
Spencer: a blue shirt
Romero: maybe if you showed me
Spencer: did you see me at all on August 12?
Romero: I’m not sure
Spencer: on Friday night how did you end up in front of the rotunda at the Jefferson statue? I didn’t quite understand how you ended up there
Romero: not sure who, a classmate maybe, saw something and we also saw that an altercation had happened at Walmart… students knew that something was going to happen and so I showed up there with a friend
Spencer: when you say something was going to happen…?
Romero: that the protesters were going to be by the university
Spencer: so you wanted to seek out the protesters is what i understand
Spencer: so you then proceeded to go to the torch light rally after learning about it…
Romero: I didn’t know that there was going to be torches…
Spencer: You did want to be around that gathering, and you heard about something that was not publicly announced, you heard a rumor on twitter or from a friend and you wanted to be close to it… you wanted to be there to see it…?
Romero: i would say its like.. the reason I picked Virginia.. I wanted to be close to the white house… to me it was historical in a way
Spencer: I noticed you were holding up a banner that said ‘UVA Students Against White Supremacy’
Romero: i wasn’t holding the banner
Spencer: ok, but you were around it.. was that an organization or was it informal?
Romero: not an organization
Spencer: so they wanted to be a kind of ad-hoc counter-protest to Unite The Right?
Spencer: So people wanted to object to unite the right, tell them to get them out of town etc?
Spencer: was there anything you wanted to say?
Romero: not really
Spencer: you’ve testified that you felt intimidated by the Friday night rally, you felt scared.. why did you go to Charlottesville on Saturday August 12 after your experience?
Romero: people had planned things at another park
Spencer: so you wanted to take part in a counter-protest…?
Romero: I suppose
Spencer: I don’t dispute your injuries or your suffering… what makes you think that I was involved with the car attack…?
Judge Moon: you can ask if she knows anything but obviously a lawsuit was put together… i think its a rather dangerous Q but you can cross examine her about anything she says she has observed
Spencer: so you just testified that you didn’t see me on August 11 or 12 but there was a decent chance you might recognize me… but you did not see me… as you testified
Romero: I’ll also remind you that the injury I had that day blurs a lot of things…
Spencer: when the car incident occurred, did you believe that I was responsible or involved, you didn’t see me, did you believe that I was responsible?
Romero: for the car? I can’t say
Spencer: No further Qs
Judge Moon calls a lunch break until 1:30 PM eastern time
Court is expected to resume any minute now, with more defendants or defense counsel cross-examining car attack survivor and Sines plaintiff Natalie Romero.
Judge Moon is back at the bench, just removed his mask
Karen Dunn for the plaintiffs says “one question that will be an ongoing issue… is on direct examination to have witnesses authenticate video and audio…”
Judge Moon: if you know if can be authenticated or not, why not agree on it
Dunn: I know that Mr. Cantwell has questions about exhibits, I have not seen them and I don’t know that they can be authenticated by this witness but we’d like to see if they could be
Cantwell: I brought this up during the break, I don’t need it for this witness
Cantwell: there seems to be no way to play audio only for the witness
Judge Moon: if we don’t need it for this witness let’s go with this witness
Cantwell: there are video which I believe Ms. Romero is in and believe they can be authenticated by Romero if asking if its a fair and accurate representation of her at the event
Judge Moon: how long are these videos, can you get right to her?
Cantwell: I need to queue things up, may take a bit, I’ve never done this before
Judge Moon: we can’t just sit here for an hour waiting for her to appear (in the video)
Judge Moon: call in the jury, Mr. Rebrook is next
Edward Rebrook, representing Jeff Schoep and the National Socialist Movement and Nationalist Front, is literally phoning it in today – “Can you hear me?” (he got food poisoning earlier this week)
Rebrook: do you recall seeing Mr. Jeff Schoep at the torch light march?
Romero: I would need to see his face
Rebrook (over the phone): do we have Mr. Schoep’s image to show?
Judge Moon: do we have that, anyone?
Dunn: we have an image from our opening slide if that would be of assistance?
Judge Moon: who knows, put it up! If that’s all we’ve got…
Romero look at pic of former National Socialist Movement ‘Commander’ Jeff Schoep, says “I’m not sure” if she recognizes him from being at the torch rally
Judge Moon: Mr. Reebrook can you go on?
Rebrook (after 30 seconds): “hello, I’m here, can you all hear me?”
Rebrook: can Ms. Romero differentiate between the logos of the different defendant organizations such as the National Socialist Movement, Vanguard America, League of the South, etc?
Romero: a little bit
Rebrook: that’s all I have, thank you
Cantwell is next…
Chris Cantwell is representing himself, is now cross-examining Natalie Romero
Cantwell: do you recall who told you about the torch march?
Cantwell: you told Spencer you heard about it on twitter?
Cantwell: you heard about the altercation at Walmart?
Cantwell: do you remember hearing that someone pulled a gun at the Walmart?
Cantwell: do you know Emily Gorcenski?
Cantwell: have you heard of the website It’s Going Down?
Cantwell: did you notice anybody wearing all black, wearing sunglasses at night?
Cantwell: do you know who (reads off names of people he thinks are antifascists)…
Romero: no (repeatedly)
Cantwell: did you see on August 12, anybody in your company carrying any weapons?
Cantwell: anybody wearing helmets?
Romero: I saw lots of helmets
Cantwell: and the counter-protesters, its your testimony that they weren’t wearing helmets?
Romero: I wouldn’t know
Cantwell: did you see anyone who you would categorize as a counter-protesters wearing a helmet on August 12?
Cantwell: wearing goggles?
Cantwell: did you see any counter-protesters on August 12 carrying signs?
Cantwell: do any of those signs stand out in your memory
Romero: not that I can think of right now
Cantwell: do you recall a sign w a symbol of a red fist?
Cantwell: so you like American history?
Cantwell: how do you feel about monuments?
Judge Moon: overruled
Cantwell: how do you feel about the Robert E. Lee statue?
Romero: i know the history of how it was put up… it was put up to intimidate ppl
Cantwell: how do you feel about the Thomas Jefferson statue?
Cantwell: how do you feel about it knowing that he owned slaves?
Romero: being a UVA student we learn the history… you hear about all the terrible things they would do… UVA used to have a eugenics clinic, I think that’s terrible and we should honor that
Cantwell: we should honor the terrible history?
Romero: no we should honor the oppressed people…
Cantwell: so if a symbol upsets one individual it should be removed?
Romero: i think if a symbol represents hatred, it should be removed
Cantwell: are you a permanent Charlottesville resident?
Romero: no… i graduated
Cantwell: in what state do you reside today?
Romero: New York
Cantwell: up until three months ago you worked for a nonprofit doing…
Romero: non-partisan civic engagement… attended school board meetings to comment on the needs of students… local elections…
Cantwell: so your role in the nonprofit had to do with your status as a victim of the Charlottesville incident?
Romero: no, not at all
Cantwell: who was your friend that you went to the torch rally with?
Cantwell: what’s their last name?
Cantwell: how do you feel about fascism?
Romero: something that literally hates me and my existence
Cantwell: fascism hates you because you are of hispanic descent?
Romero: I’m also a queer woman
Cantwell: is it safe to say you’re an antifascist?
Cantwell: an antifascist activist?
Cantwell: do you identify as antifa?
Cantwell: do you know anyone who does?
Cantwell: did you make any new friends on August 11 or 12?
Cantwell: did you see Emily Gorcenski show up at the statue?
Romero: i don’t know
Cantwell: tell me some of the names of the people who were around the statue
Romero: I don’t know a lot of their names, a lot of them I had never met
Cantwell: and you linked arms with strangers?
Romero: i linked arms with a friend on each side
Cantwell: are Devin and Lou witnesses in this case?
Dunn: your honor would you like me to respond? Devin Willis is on the witness list, he’s a plaintiff in this case, this other individual is not on our witness list
Cantwell: you said today that “I wish I covered my face” – that was a prior statement that you recalled?
Romero: i say that because i was maced so I wished I’d covered my face
Cantwell: other people wore masks?
Romero: idk, some hat hats
Cantwell: and they hid their face behind the ‘UVA Students’ banner?
Romero: i guess
Cantwell is trying to pull up the photo “with the sign where the students are hiding their faces”
Cantwell: Ms. Romero, do you know the names of any of the people who are hiding their faces in this photo?
Romero: I’m not sure
Cantwell: do you know if they were UVA students or not?
Romero: I believe so
Cantwell: How do you know?
Judge Moon: she said she believes so
Cantwell: how do you know besides the sign?
Romero: well they have the UVA hats
Cantwell is circling other people in the far left frame of the photo asking Natalie Romero if she recognizes them, she says no
Cantwell is again fixating on the presence of Emily Gorcenski in the photo
Cantwell circles another guy in the photo, asking Romero if she recalls him, she says no
Cantwell: you didn’t bring your phone w you.. on the evening on August 11?
Romero: I don’t think I did, bc I didn’t have any images
Cantwell: you’re off to the left side of this image… you said you and Devin were the only people of color on that side?
Romero: from my recollection
Cantwell: you said as the torch marchers approached, they made some racial remarks to you – did that happen early on… or once everybody was all around? Of the 100s of ppl who showed up… how many made racial remarks to you?
Romero: I’d say it was a handful
Cantwell: you mentioned that people…directed their comments at you… what percentage of the hundreds of ppl who showed up to you made racial remarks to you…
Romero: when people were saying the slurs, other people joined in with them
Cantwell: at what point, as the marchers came around the statue, at some point you decided you wanted to leave, at what point was that?
Romero: pretty early on, by then we had already been surrounded
Cantwell: you heard what you said sounded like the earth growling & that was before you were surrounded..& it was pretty early on that people started making racial remarks to you but you didn’t decide to get out of there until you saw there was no opportunity?
Romero: I suppose?
Cantwell: there’s a video that I want to play but i want to ask a question first (confers with plaintiffs’ counsel)
Cantwell: do you know who sprayed mace at you on August 11?
Cantwell: at any point did you talk to Commonwealth Attorney Michael Tracy about you getting pepper-sprayed on August 11?
Romero: do you have a pic of him?
Cantwell: did you talk to the police about getting pepper-sprayed on August 11?
Romero: I’ve spoken to them multiple times
Cantwell: you didn’t speak to the police on August 11?
Romero: No, I was getting assistance for my injury
Cantwell: you didn’t get assistance from the police?
Romero: no, they were clearing the space
Cantwell: well i was actually getting assistance from the police that night, you didn’t ask them for first aid? They’re pretty good at that
Cantwell: do you know the name of the person who gave you first aid?
Cantwell: do you know who started the fighting on August 11 at UVA?
Romero: i’m not sure
Cantwell: you mentioned that Reverend Wispelwey was in the company of a famous pastor, you don’t remember his name?
Cantwell: does the name Cornel West ring a bell?
Romero: yes that’s it
Cantwell: do you know anything about Cornel West?
Romero: I saw a talk he did with Angela Davis and some other folks
Cantwell: Angela Davis, can you tell me who she is?
Romero: she’s a professor on the west coast somewhere i think
Cantwell: you’ve never heard Cornel West talk about politics?
Romero: not that I can recall..
Cantwell: are you familiar w an organization called the Democratic Socialists of America?
Romero: i’ve heard of it
Cantwell: have you gone to Charlottesville city council meetings?
Romero: yes of course
Cantwell: did you go to the city council meeting right after Unite The Right?
Romero: no, I couldn’t have
Cantwell: do you know who threw you up against the cop car outside Emancipation Park on August 12?
Romero: it was a group of people
Cantwell: so a group of people put their hands on you…?
Romero: multiple people
Cantwell: can you tell us anything about what those people were wearing?
Romero: they seemed to be different groups, they had uniforms and some of them had shields
Cantwell: did they put their shields somewhere else to put their hands on you?
Romero: some used their shields, some used their hands
Cantwell: this seems like a pretty intense group effort you’re describing here, some using shields, some using hands
Cantwell: after they issued a state of emergency, you listened to the police and walked away from the park?
Romero: yes of course
Cantwell: on Water St you saw a group of counter protesters that you met up with…when you saw these people you said “it was shut down, everything was fine”
… on August 11 you got pepper sprayed by a nazi mob and then on August 12 you decided to come get some more… you got maced, you got pushed, you got teargassed you got stampeded… then you walked 2 blocks away and everything is fine? – Cantwell
Romero: is that a question?
Cantwell: i’m just a little confused
Romero: I’m also confused
Cantwell: so there were medics out there and the medics were identified by red bandanas?
Romero: i can’t really say for certain
Cantwell: you indicated that you were troubled that some of the people who held the rally came back for future rallies later on… to the best of your knowledge was there any violence at those events?
Romero: i don’t know
Cantwell: you had an emotional support animal you named Luna, is that a cat?
Romero: it’s a dog
Cantwell: what kind of dog?
Romero: a terrier mix
Cantwell: you mentioned in your testimony you’ve been locked in your house for four years but you’ve been working with a nonprofit promoting civic engagement?
Romero: I would go to city council meetings…
Cantwell: so fair to see for at least one year that you were locked inside your house, you were locked inside your house partially as a result of the pandemic, right?
Cantwell: i may seek to recall you when I put my case on but I’m done now
David Campel, James Fields’ attorney, has no cross examination questions for Natalie Romero
Next to cross-examine Natalie Romero is Bryan Jones, representing Michael Hill, Michael Tubbs and the League of the South
Jones asks Romero about the August 12 incident where she was assaulted by the police car outside Emancipation Park
Jones: you said there was some clergy members standing nearby?
Romero: in that moment, I couldn’t say
Jones: Do you recall whether the road was being blocked off by counter-protesters at that time?
Jones: so that was a different occasion, when the counter-protesters were blocking off the road?
Jones: all of your injuries from that weekend were either from the torch march or the car attack…?
Romero: physically, yes
Jones: while you were at the rally you said you noticed someone walking around with a hammer, do you recall if that was a protester or a counter-protester?
Romero: he had a white shirt and khakis on
Jones pulls up an evidence exhibit of an email or text that Romero sent saying “James Fields has destroyed my life”
Jones: where did you learn James Fields’ name?
Romero: I can’t say
Jones: probably from the news?
Jones: after August 12?
Jones is done cross-examining Natalie Romero now
Joshua Smith, attorney for Matt Parrott, Matt Heimbach, and Traditionalist Worker Party is now cross-examining Natalie Romero
Smith asks Romero about the ‘UVA Students Against White Supremacy’ banner – “what is white supremacy?”
Romero: the belief that white people are superior
Smith: the statue at UVA, that’s a statue of Thomas Jefferson… was Thomas Jefferson a white supremacist?
Romero: I’m not sure, I don’t know if he blatantly said…
Smith: how do you know Matthew Parrott?
Romero: i don’t know him
Smith repeats Q about if she knows Heimbach & TWP, Romero shook her head. Romero asks to see pictures of them to jog her memory
Asks if she recognizes them, Romero says “I do remember seeing the fork kind of thing” (the TWP logo) “on the 12th”
Smith: do you remember seeing that on the 11th?
Romero: I tried to keep my head down
Smith: you testified that the events of Aug 11 were frightening to you… why did you decide to go back into that kind of intense social and political conflict the next day?
Romero: I did not expect the same results…it was daytime..I thought they were just gonna be in the park
Smith: why did you decide not to go to the other permitted events?
Romero: I did go
Smith is done cross-examining Romero. No re-direct from the plaintiffs
The next plaintiffs’ witness is “on the way up”, Karen Dunn says
Break happening now for “about 20 minutes” says Judge Norman Moon
Judge Moon is back in court, the second plaintiff’s witness is coming in shortly
Devil Willis (Plaintiff) Testimony
Roberta Kaplan introduces Alex Conlon, another attorney for the plaintiffs who will be questioning plaintiff and witness Devin Willis, whose testimony is beginning now
Alex Conlon is asking Devin Willis to introduce himself – he’s 23, currently lives in Mexico City. before that he lived in Charlottesville from 2016-2020, was an undergrad student at UVA, graduated in May 2020
Willis says he grew up in and around Fredricksburg, VA. Right now he works as an urban planner
Conlon: In August 2017, how old were you?
Willis: I was 18… I had just finished my freshman year and stayed in Charlottesville because I was fortunate enough to get a good internship that summer
Conlon is asking Willis about his achievements in HS & college, he’s talking about different clubs, groups and extracurricular activities he was involved in
Willis says he was involved in the International Residential College, volunteered for the committee that put on their Thanksgiving event for kids that couldn’t afford to fly home to their home countries for the break
Willis was involved in the Black Student Alliance at UVA
Conlon: apart from social events why did you join the BSA (Black Student Alliance?
Willis: my really close friend was involved
Willis was appointed to serve as membership secretary of the BSA at UVA
Willis continued to be involved with the Black Student Alliance into the summer of 2017, he tells the court
Conlon: what kind of groups were you involved with that summer on behalf of the BSA?
Willis: Black Lives Matter Charlottesville, other social justice groups
Conlon: does the BSA have any connection to antifa?
Conlon: before August did you ever have any encounters w white nationalists in Charlottesville?
Willis: yes, when the KKK rallied in Charlottesville on July 8, 2017
Conlon: had you ever interacted with someone from the Klan before?
Willis: no… i was born in ’98 and thought race relations were only improving
Conlon: what happened when you went to the [July 8] rally…
Defense: objection for relevance
Judge Moon: it’s come up before, go ahead, overruled
Conlon: please tell us about your experience at the July 8 rally
Willis: I went with some close friends, we saw robed up Klanspeople for the first time…they were wearing robes but a lot of them had firearms at their hips
“… they were motioning at their firearms and insulting people in the crowd…it was a disarming thing to see but mostly uneventful…” Willis describes KKK rallygoers making “monkey noises or monkey motions” at Black people
Conlon: After the July 8 rally did you make plans to attend any similar events?
Willis yes the July 8 rally was how I first heard about Unite The Right… a professor mentioned it to me as “it will be this just bigger again”… thought it would “be the same thing”
Conlon: why would you wanna go to another rally like that?
Willis: you feel indignant that these people want to exercise their right to use hateful speech.. and that’s protected but I would like to use my right to express the opposite viewpoint
Conlon: When you first heard about Unite The Right, when you hear any plans for a counter protest?
Willis: When i was liaising for the BSA I heard about preparations for a counter-protest
Willis: the BSA collaborated with other groups… to facilitate the permits that were obtained for the two other parks for the counter-demonstrations… a professor I knew had got a permit for McGuffee Park to create a safe space for people to be a part of something positive…
Conlon: once you became aware of the plans for the counter-protest, what were they?
Willis: we wanted to have a place for the basics… portapotties, water bottles… snacks
Willis: we had some programming – poetry, meditation, some speeches, songs
Conlon: were you personally involved in developing the programming for the counter-protest?
Conlon: did you see any media advisories about the counter-protest?
Conlon shows an exhibit that’s a media advisory about a counter-protest.
Willis says he recognizes the document, says he helped create it
Conlon zooms in on a paragraph from the media advisory that refers to “Numerous events will be held throughout the day on August 12 at the two parks…”
Conlon: Based on your knowledge of plans for Unite The Right and the counter-protest did you believe that attending the counter-protest might be dangerous?
Willis: at the time I did not
Conlon: did you know if the counter-protest was coordinated with the police at all?
Willis: I remember talk of a meeting w the chief of police
Conlon: how did you feel about planning to attend the counter-protest?
Willis: we expected it to be safe, like July 8 just bigger
Conlon: when did your thinking about safety at Unite The Right change?
Willis: the night of August 11
Conlon asks Willis to describe the night of August 11, Willis says he was at a spaghetti dinner that night with a professor and some friends.
Conlon: did you make any preparations for the counter-protester at that dinner?
Willis: yeah, we were making signs
Conlon: were you aware of plans for a march on UVA campus?
Conlon: did you learn of plans for a march on campus?
Willis: at some point someone told us “Jason Kessler and his people are going to have something and it might be at UVA”
Conlon: what did you feel in response when you heard this?
Willis: I was annoyed and frustrated…none of those guys to my knowledge were UVA students or had been for a long time… we felt we should do something, go counter-demonstrate…
… it wasn’t my idea but people made plans to go over and counter-demonstrate… one of the signs was already finished so we decided to take it and go over – Willis
Conlon: what made you decide to go?
Willis: wanted to go w my friends, I looked up to them
Conlon: what do you see when you first get there?
Willis:… it started to get dark, I recognized some of our friends… at the base of the statue
Conlon: how many of your friends did you recognize?
Wilis: no more than 10-15
Conlon: did you recognize all of the people around statue at that point?
Conlon: why was the plan to encircle the Thomas Jefferson statue?
Willis: my reason was I felt like… the people who were heading to the statue don’t represent UVA… I felt like… us circling the statue, a diverse group of present students, was a good way to make our point..
Conlon: when you first arrived… did you see any white nationalists?
Conlon pulls up PX-3474, a video exhibit of a clip from the night of August 11, 2017
Willis says he recognizes the video because he sees himself in it.
The video is a clip from a livestream of students chanting “No Nazis, No KKK No fascist USA” around the Jefferson statute before the group was surrounded (we think it’s our livestream but not totally sure)
Conlon: what could you hear?
Willis: a lot of loud and deep shouting coming from the other side of the rotunda
Conlon: why did you decide to stay put?
Willis: I didn’t know how many people were present..we made a buddy and Natalie was my buddy and I felt like I had a responsibility to my buddy and my group of friends to see the demonstration through
Conlon: were you scared?
Conlon: after this part in the video where it’s paused, what happens next?
Willis: you see the mysterious glow, you hear the shouting and the growling gets louder, the lights start rushing over the steps and this ocean of light. and flames starts spilling over both sides of the steps.., they rush the entire area and surround us in a matter of seconds…
Willis: as it was too late to go anywhere I realized I was wrong about how many people would be there
Conlon: do you remember what they were saying
Willis: blood and soil, you will not replace us, jews will not replace us…
…it was xenophobic and hateful and I knew that it was directed at me and people like me… it’s this idea that everybody who is not also white is trying to replace them… – Willis
Conlon: about how many people.. did you see coming over the rotunda towards you…?
Conlon pulls up PX-2344, a photo from the August 11 torch rally showing the group with torches surrounding the students at the statue
Willis – “…I’m on the right side of the base of the statue…” draws a circle to show where he was
Conlon: what did you think when you saw the torches?
Willis: I thought that i had never seen anything like that before, I was really scared because I thought it was a lynch mob… fire is a very intentional thing and it’s a very scary thing
Conlon: how were the men w torches dressed, what did they look like?
Willis: most were white, adult-looking, most had the same haircuts, most were wearing some kind of combination of white polo shirt or dress shirts and khaki pants… some clearly had weapons holstered
Conlon: what were they saying?
Willis: they had the chants, some made monkey noises, they shouted many hateful things, I’ve tried to drive most of it out of my mind
Conlon: when they were surrounding you chanting hateful things, did you want to leave?
Conlon: why didn’t you?
Willis: I was surrounded on all sides by tiki torches
Conlon pulls up another exhibit picture PX-2680, asks Willis if he recognizes it, he says yes.The photo, taken from the rotunda steps, shows the crowd with torches completely surrounding the statue. Willis circles where he was at the time, in the surrounded group
Conlon: what did you do when you were fully surrounded by the white nationalists in this picture?
Willis: I couldn’t do much so had to focus on safety… I knew that I had to hide my face in case I would be doxed… I was trying to keep my head down…
Willis: a lot of pepper spray and things were being thrown and I wanted to protect myself to the best that I could
Conlon: what do you mean by doxing?
Willis: when someone publishes your name, your face, your personal identifying info to the internet to harass you, make you fear for your safety
Willis: tiki torches still on fire were being thrown in our direction, swung at us, you just try to make yourself as small as possible to get hit by as few things as possible
Conlon: were you able to avoid the pepper spray?
Willis: no, it gets sprayed directly in your direction and you can’t run… after it gets sprayed it linger in the air…
Conlon: apart from lit torches did anyone throw anything else at you?
Willis: yes, from the mob someone threw some sort of liquid at us, it looked like it came from a tiki torch canister and landed at our feet…seemed like it might. be some sort of lighter fluid…it got on & near my shoes… I thought I might die that night…
Conlon: do you have a sense of how long you were stuck in that situation?
Willis: I don’t know how long I was there, it felt like a very long time
Conlon pulls up a picture of people by the ‘VA Students Against White Supremacy’ banner at the surrounded Jefferson statue, has Willis circle himself in the photo (the back of his head)
Conlon: apart from chanting, throwing torches, throwing lighter fluid and spraying mace, did you see white nationalists engage in any other violence?
Willis: they had been using their tiki torches and striking people… one of the brawls that broke out rolled onto my feet…
Willis: “i’m also now eating these kicks and punches because they’re fighting on my legs…”
Conlon: could you see their faces?
Willis: no but i could see what they were wearing… some of them were wearing polo shirts and khakis…
Willis: eventually we decided to try to escape… our friends formed a circle around us and tried their best to escort us off the statute… but as sort as we un-joined hands… they pummeled us
Conlon: what do you mean when you say they pummeled you..?
Willis: they’re beating badly my friends who are standing between us and them… I’m watching my friends take pepper spray directly into their eyes, take punches to their backs and their heads, as they’re trying to protect us leaving
Conlon: What happened once you got out of that crowd?
Willis: they’re pushing and shoving our group off the statue even though we were already going, we hobble over to a group of benches that are a few feet to the east of the statue, we tried to rally ourselves…
Conlon: while you were recovering could you see what the white nationalists were doing?
Willis:… as we are escaping they are celebrating.. they’re chanting white power, white lives matter, and climbing the statue
Conlon: how did you react when you saw the white nationalists celebrating?
Willis: I had just taken a pretty bad beating, I was flustered by that whole experience…
watching these guys attack & jump a whole bunch of student protesters, watching a bunch of grown men celebrating that…we didn’t think we need to leave on that note… we started chanting Black Lives Matter in response… – Willis
Conlon: when you saw (UVA) Dean Groves that night did he have any injuries?
Willis: yeah, his jacket was cut open and his hand was burned… he told me he got hit with a tiki torch
Conlon: how did that evening end?
Willis: we finished our chant, the incident was mostly over, we all went home
Conlon: how did you feel when you went home?
Willis: I felt shocked and mostly numb… I just wanted to end that evening
Conlon: On August 12, after what happened the night before, did you still attend the counter-protest like you had planned?
Willis: I had responsibilities… I had helped organize things…
Conlon is asking Willis about the counter-event he helped organize on August 12 at McGuffee Park, a few blocks from Emancipation Park (formerly known as Lee Park)
Conlon pulls up PX-2530, a video of Devin Willis addressing a crowd at McGuffey Park on the morning of August 12
Conlon: What did you do after making your speech?
Willis: I stayed and heard some more speeches, then walked to the bridge (a community center) bc some of us had planned to meet there to begin our student march (this was around 9 AM)
Conlon: where did the student march go?
Willis: we left The Bridge and.. went north, heading into downtown… from there we… headed… into Emancipation park
Conlon: how many students were part of the student march?
Willis: in the ballpark of 30
Conlon: did you march to Emancipation park?
Conlon: did you go into Emancipation park?
Willis: we ended adjacent to the park
Conlon pulls up a map of the area around the park, has Devin Willis circle the library area where he says the student march ended near Emancipation Park
Conlon: why did you and the marching students stop near the library?
Wllis: that seemed like an appropriately safe distance.. we knew what these people were capable of
Conlon: were there other counter-protesters there?
Conlon: were there white nationalists there?
Willis: yeah, loads
Conlon: were there white nationalists inside Emancipation Park?
Willis: yeah… they seemed more interested in what was happening in the street than in the park
Conlon: how were the white nationalists dressed?
Willis: white polos and khakis, call it the school uniform, also a lot in riot gear or militia fatigues… looked like a costume party or something…
Conlon: were any of them armed?
Willis: yes I saw sidearms, mace, flagpoles doubling as weapons, many had similar haircuts… they would roll up their flags and strike people with them
Conlon pulls up an evidence exhibit video (PX-3625) from the morning of August 12 – the video shows Devin Willis talking and laughing with a drummer in a band in the street
Conlon pulls up a picture of Devin Willis on the morning of August 12 standing in front of the marching band in the street
Conlon: Apart from chanting, did you see white nationalists doing anything at the corner of 2nd and Market?
Willis: …from this corner I can see the park and I can see Market Street outside of the park…they’re picking fights w anybody who they can get to walk by… they’re throwing water bottles..water bottles filled with urine…rolled-up flags..
Willis: “they would really relish in the chance to push through the crowd, to knock people down and that kind of thing… I was curious why they weren’t using the three other entrances to the park…”
Willis: “these guys would come in waves from Market street… the people who are on the street, who are already there, they would lock arms.. and you can get around us, but they always chose to go through us…”
Conlon pulls up another evidence exhibit – a short video clip that Devin Willis took on August 12. It shows a line of anti-racist counter-protesters lining up with arms locked in the street
Willis: I know a lot of people in the video.. we are linking hands and protesting and singing our song along the intersection of Market… between the library side and downtown pedestrian mall side… the point is that…
that part of the sidewalk is where the link ends, after this video ends I jumped on the link” of joined arms…”
…I just remember seeing a bunch of older bearded men… marching in this quasi military formation and they’re marching towards our chain, they charge into the middle of it, and we stand pretty strong.. but they eventually knock everyone down…” – Devin Willis
Conlon: the people charging towards you, did they have shields?
WIllis: I don’t remember
Conlon: did they have helmets?
Conlon: do you remember anything that the white nationalists who rushed the line you were in were doing or saying…?
Willis: they were pushing and shoving people
Conlon: did you hear them yelling… something like a military order or a drill?
Willis describes making it to the library steps safely but inhaling pepper spray that was in the air, realizing he had scrapes from being knocked down
Willis: A lot of people were hurt really badly that day so I don’t like to make a big thing out of what happened to me… but it was a painful experience
Conlon: what did you see while you were up on the library steps?
Willis: an increasingly chaotic scene…seems lie more and more of the white supremacists are coming out of the park, agitating the crowd
Conlon: what did the people look like who appeared to be instigating the brawls that you saw?
Willis: most of them were wearing the uniform of the white top and the khaki bottoms that I described
Conlon: did you see anyone in a black militant looking uniform?
Willis: absolutely, many people were dressed that way and clearly white nationalists
Conlon pulls up PX-3263, a picture showing Devin Willis holding a sign in the street on August 12
Conlon: were you able to see the faces of the people who rushed the line that you were in?
Willis: no or if i did i didn’t register their faces
Conlon: can you describe what direction they were coming from?
Willis: they were coming from the east
Judge Moon: if we took a break it would be past 5 o clock so we’re gonna recess for today until Monday morning 9 AM