A jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, found the organizers of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally liable for the event’s violence, awarding nine plaintiffs $26 million in damages. Convicted murderer James Fields — who is already serving multiple life sentences for killing activist Heather Heyer when he rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters — was found liable for $12 million in punitive damages. The 12 defendants included three other high-profile white supremacist figures: former leader of the “alt-right” movement Richard Spencer, event organizer Jason Kessler and neo-Nazi podcast host Christopher Cantwell. Defendants have been ordered to pay plaintiffs $500,000 each, and five white nationalist groups were ordered to pay $1 million each. The jury, however, was deadlocked on two federal conspiracy charges.
The House panel investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection issued subpoenas Tuesday to far-right groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. Both groups are believed to be involved in planning and taking part in the deadly attack. Dozens of people affiliated with the white supremacist organizations have been indicted by the Justice Department and a federal grand jury.
In Georgia, jury deliberations continue today in the trial of three white men who chased down and killed 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, while he was out for a jog. The prosecution offered its closing statement Tuesday ahead of the deliberation.
Linda Dunikoski: “They started it. They do not get to claim self-defense. And then, of course, provocation. You can’t force someone to defend themselves against you, so you get to claim self-defense. This isn’t the Wild West.”
Outside the courthouse, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, struck a hopeful note.
Wanda Cooper-Jones: “I do think that we will come back with a guilty verdict. And I’m going to leave with this: God has brought us this far, and he’s not going to fail us now. We will get justice for Ahmaud.”
In Missouri, Kevin Strickland, an African American man who was wrongfully convicted of a triple murder in 1979 by an all-white jury, has been exonerated and released from prison after over 43 years. Strickland was arrested when he was 18, and had maintained his innocence ever since. He’s now 62. His case is the longest confirmed wrongful incarceration in Missouri’s history.
In international news, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has gone to the frontlines of battle, according to Ethiopian state media. Government operations have been handed over to the deputy prime minister. Abiy Ahmed challenged Tigrayan forces to meet him on the battlefield as they threaten to march on the capital Addis Ababa. The year-long conflict has claimed thousands of lives, displaced millions, and has led to widespread violations of human rights from all involved parties, according to the U.N. — some of which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Chun Doo-hwan, the former U.S.-backed military dictator of South Korea, has died at the age of 90. General Chun seized power through a coup in 1979. A year later, he ordered a brutal attack on a pro-democracy uprising in Kwangju, with estimates of the death toll ranging from 500 to over 2,000 people. At the time, then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter backed the violent crackdown on the pro-democracy protesters. Korean activists are demanding the U.S. acknowledge its role in Chun’s rise to power and the cruelty of his regime.
Portugal has shut down its last coal-fired power plant, making it the fourth European nation to give up coal. The move comes nine years ahead of a 2030 target set by the Portuguese government. Climate activists hailed the move but warned the plant should not be converted to producing energy through fossil fuels, wood or other nonsustainable materials.
President Biden announced the U.S. will tap into its strategic oil reserves in hopes of reducing energy prices. The U.S. will release 50 million barrels of crude oil. Biden spoke Tuesday.
President Joe Biden: “It will take time, but before long you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank. … And in the longer term, we will reduce our reliance on oil as we shift to clean energy. But right now I will do what needs to be done to reduce the price you pay at the pump.”
Britain, China, India, Japan and South Korea will also authorize the release of oil. Climate groups condemned the move, which comes less than two weeks after the U.N.’s global climate summit.
Apple has filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against the Israeli firm NSO Group, accusing the surveillance company of hacking Apple devices with its Pegasus spyware. In the suit, Apple denounces NSO as “amoral 21st-century mercenaries” who’ve used their technology to enable human rights abuses. The lawsuit is the second of its kind. Facebook sued NSO for targeting its WhatsApp users in 2019. The Pegasus spyware has been used by governments to target hundreds of activists, journalists and government officials.
In Ohio, a federal jury found the drugstore chains CVS, Walgreens and Walmart helped fuel the opioid crisis in two Ohio counties. Lawyers for the plaintiffs successfully used the state’s public nuisance laws to deliver the first verdict holding major drug retailers liable for the opioid epidemic.
The families of the victims and survivors of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have reached a nearly $130 million settlement with the Justice Department. The families had sued the FBI, accusing the agency of negligence for failing to act on tips they received about the gunman just weeks before the massacre. At the time, the tipster told the FBI the shooter was “going to explode” and that he “was going to slip into a school and start shooting the place up.” Seventeen students, staff and teachers were killed that day.
In New York, the City Council is pushing forward a bill that would allow New York residents who are not U.S. citizens to register as members of political parties and vote in municipal elections. The move would open up voting to over 800,000 New Yorkers who have green cards or other work authorization. This is Murad Awawdeh of the New York Immigration Coalition.
Murad Awawdeh: “We’re on the cusp of making history together by expanding our democracy, just when voting rights are under attack across the nation.”
The legislation is expected to be approved in December by a veto-proof majority.
In Brooklyn, New York, Malikah Shabazz, one of Malcolm X’s six daughters, was found dead in her home on Monday at the age of 56. Police said they believe her death was of natural causes. Malikah and her twin sister Malaak were the youngest daughters of the civil rights icon and were born after their father was assassinated on February 21, 1965.
In Tucson, Arizona, supporters of Hia Ced and Tohono O’odham land and water protector Amber Ortega held a solidarity rally Tuesday as Ortega awaits a trial verdict over federal misdemeanor charges for peacefully protesting the construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall near Quitobaquito Springs. The site is sacred to O’odham people. Ortega was arrested in September of 2020 alongside O’odham land and water protector Nellie Jo David after blocking construction machinery. This is Ortega speaking to supporters outside the Tucson courthouse yesterday.
Amber Ortega: “Our rights as a people need to be restored. Our lands need to be restored to the people, the natural caretakers, our creator. As children, we’re raised to know where we come from, where our people come from, what mountains provided for us, what mountains we sing to, what landscapes, what waters took care of us. And we carry those stories because that’s our history.”
If convicted, Ortega faces up to six months in prison. Click here to see our interview with Nellie Jo David last year.