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Nazis’ Lawyers Accuse Charlottesville Victims of Being Communist Sympathizers in Sixth Day of Wild Trial

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — As the second witness in the landmark lawsuit against white nationalist organizers of the 2017 Unite the Right rally took the stand on Monday, defendants sought to discredit the victims of violence that engulfed the city in August 2017 by attempting to make strained connections to violent left-wing counter-protesters and communists.

During jury selection, several prospective jurors expressed negative opinions about “antifa,” revealing how deeply right-wing conspiracy theories falsely portraying left-wing, antiracist activists as uniformly violent have become entrenched since the election of Donald Trump. Lawyers for the plaintiffs were able to get several of the prospective jurors with the most extreme views of “antifa” struck.

Defense counsel began cross-examination of Devin Willis, a plaintiff who was an 18-year-old African-American student at the University of Virginia in August 2017, on Monday morning. Willis and fellow plaintiff Natalie Romero, who testified on Oct. 29, were the only people of color among a group of counter-protesters who were surrounded by a torch-bearing mob as they linked arms around the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the University of Virginia campus on Aug. 11, 2017.

White nationalists in the mob yelled, “Go back to where you came from,” made monkey noises at them, and hurled lit torches at their feet.

A member of the Black Student Alliance at the University of Virginia, Willis helped organize a respite area in nearby McGuffey Park, where antiracist counter-protesters could find food and water, listen to poetry or take time for meditation, during the day of the Unite the Right rally on Aug. 12, 2017.

Defendants questioned him about the language in a press release announcing the project by asking him to distinguish between “nonviolent civil protest” and “direct action.” Through cross-examination, the defendants attempted to cast the respite effort in a sinister light by highlighting the fact that Willis also went to what was then Emancipation Park and stood with a group of people who attempted to block the white nationalists from traversing the street.

Richard Spencer, the one-time figurehead of the alt-right movement, asked Willis if his intention of maintaining a “safe space” at McGuffey Park would “have included blocking people from traveling to a permitted rally.”

“I don’t think so,” Willis replied. “The first thing is the safe space was in McGuffey Park. I think what you’re referring to took place somewhere else.”

But Willis also rejected the defendants’ attempt to characterize his participation in the blockade as “direct action,” instead describing it as “a symbolic gesture,” similar to when he joined counter-protesters to surround the Jefferson statue the previous evening.

“That’s why there was space left to walk around,” he added.

Bryan Jones, counsel for the two League of the South defendants, used his cross-examination of Willis to attempt to undermine the plaintiffs’ characterization of themselves as peaceful counter-protesters. Jones presented images of the counter-protesters blocking Market Street adjacent to Emancipation Park that included at least two individuals holding sticks or flagpoles. Others in the line were wearing red bandannas, which Jones suggested in his cross-examination were indicative of support for communism.

Willis acknowledged on the stand that he joined what Jones called “this human barricade” on at least two occasions.

During direct examination, Willis had testified that he had witnessed people using sticks and poles as weapons to hit people near Emancipation Park. When Jones showed Willis a photo of person who appeared to be a counter-protester in the human chain holding a flagpole, Willis acknowledged that it was consistent with, as Jones worded it, “the type of weapons you saw used during the confrontation and conflict that day.”

Willis also identified co-plaintiff Romero in a photograph of people on the line.

Jones referenced Romero’s earlier testimony when she said that white nationalists spit at her and threw her against a police car next to Emancipation Park on the morning of Aug. 12. She testified that she couldn’t understand why they assaulted her because there was plenty of room to go around her.

“If someone were to say that Natalie was only standing on the side of the road, that would be incorrect, wouldn’t it?” Jones asked.

“I don’t think that invalidates the other thing she said,” Willis responded.

Jones also questioned Willis about red bandannas worn by people in the line blocking Market Street.

“You didn’t realize that there were communist supporters?” Jones asked.

“I wasn’t really paying much attention to that,” Willis replied.

Jones’s questioning also sought to shift blame for the violence from the defendants to members of law enforcement, who stood on the sideline as hand-to-hand combat raged on the Market Street on the morning of Aug. 12, before declaring the event an unlawful assembly and ordering people to leave.

Jones contrasted the police handling of Unite the Right with their response to a rally a month earlier by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Willis agreed with Jones that the Klan rally was relatively uneventful and that there was a significant police presence at the earlier rally, in comparison with Unite the Right. In contrast to Unite the Right, during the Klan rally, police kept the two groups separated.

“Could it be that one of the reasons you experienced violence at the August rally is that you were standing with other counter-protesters blocking a roadway, but in July you didn’t do that?” Jones asked.

Willis responded: “I don’t think standing in the roadway is an invitation to be attacked, but you could say that, yes.”

Before the trial started, Jones had unsuccessfully sought to introduce the 220-page Heaphy Report, an independent review of the breakdown of order during the Unite the Right rally that was commissioned by the former city manager, into evidence in entirety.

The Heaphy Report concluded that the city of Charlottesville failed to protect both free expression and public safety on Aug. 12, 2017.

“The city was unable to protect the right of free expression and facilitate the permit holder’s offensive speech,” the report said. “This represents a failure of one of government’s core functions — the protection of fundamental rights. Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury and death.”

Timothy Heaphy, the lead author of the report, is a former US attorney for the Western District of Virginia who was recently hired as chief investigative counsel for the US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the US Capitol.

The plaintiffs have argued that the Unite the Right organizers sought to use the report “as a central pillar in their defense at trial” in an effort “to shift the blame of their racially motivated violence onto others.”

Judge Moon turned down the defendants’ request, ruling the report inadmissible as hearsay.

The defendants are likely to sharpen questions about plaintiffs allegedly impeding their access to Emancipation Park, where they held a permit for a rally, when the Rev. Seth Wispelwey takes the stand. Wispelwey, who is a plaintiff in the case, organized a response from clergy. As Wispelwey and other clergy members, including Professor Cornel West, marched arm-in-arm to Emancipation Park, white nationalists charged through them, knocking Wispelwey into a bush.

Defendant Christopher Cantwell, a neo-Nazi podcaster, took the defendants’ efforts to link plaintiffs to violent left-wing activists a step further by extensively questioning Willis about various individuals who counter-protested the Aug. 11 torch march. At one point, Cantwell asked Willis to name the people who were in the car with him when he traveled to campus to counter-protest the torch march. During his direct examination, Willis had explained that when the white nationalists attacked them at the Jefferson statue he covered his face to avoid being doxed.

Responding to Cantwell’s question on Monday about his fellow counter-protesters, he told the court: “I’m hesitant to name them. Some of them live here.”

“You have to name them,” Judge Moon told Willis.

Plaintiffs’ counsel asked to approach the bench for a conference.

Cantwell resumed his line of questioning, and Willis asked if he had to respond.

“This is your lawsuit, and this is information they need to ask,” Moon said.

Cantwell, whose legal strategy has occasionally earned the scorn of counsel for his fellow defendants, has aggressively cross-examined the first two plaintiff-witnesses, running the risk of alienating jurors who sympathize with the injuries they incurred during the weekend of violence. At times, Cantwell’s courtroom comments have seemed more directed towards his white nationalist podcast audience than the court.

 

Jordan Green covers right-wing extremism for Raw Story. A Kentucky native, he now lives in North Carolina, where he spent 16 years writing for alt-weeklies and freelancing for the Washington Post and other publications.

Image: Peter Cvjetanovicm (Twitter)

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Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’

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If you are hired to work in Senator Kyrsten Sinema‘s office on Capitol Hill there is a 37-page memo you’ll want to read detailing all the responsibilities her staffers are required to perform, from getting her groceries, calling Verizon and going to her D.C. home to wait for a repair person if the internet goes out, scheduling massages, and ensuring her very detailed airplane requirements are met.

“It is your job to make her as comfortable as possible on each flight,” the memo says, as The Daily Beast first reported in December.

But now a group of 13 non-profit organizations have joined to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sinema (I-AZ), a new Daily Beast report reveals Friday, including details from that 37-page memo which the newly-independent lawmaker directed to be drawn up. Dated Thursday, the complaint is titled: “Letter to Senate Ethics Committee Regarding Reports of Sinema Abusing Taxpayer Dollars.”

“Senate Ethics guidelines stipulate that staff should not be asked to perform personal errands for members. This is an unambiguous ethical boundary,” the group’s complaint reads.

READ MORE: Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report

It also points to that 37-page memo, which it says, “indicates that staff are required, as a condition of their jobs, to carry out numerous tasks that are outside the scope of public employment, including doing personal errands for the Senator, carrying out household tasks at her private residence, and advancing their own funds for her personal purchases. It makes unreasonably precise scheduling demands, and former staff have confirmed some of the allegations.”

The allegations continue.

“And, most troubling, it calls on staff members, who are employed and paid by the public and explicitly barred from campaign activity, to schedule and facilitate political fundraisers and meetings with campaign donors, presumably during the workday while they are on the clock and physically on federal property.”

“Senate staff are prohibited under your guidelines from engaging in political activity ‘on Senate time, using Senate equipment or facilities.’ While you have not prohibited campaign activity outside work hours, the plain language of the memo clearly implies that Sen. Sinema expects her staff to carry out these scheduling tasks during the workday. And these tasks may separately violate Senate Rule 41.1, which explicitly prohibits Senate employees from ‘solicit[ing]’ campaign funds.”

READ MORE: ‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

The complaint also alleges that “Sen. Sinema required her staff to schedule three physical therapy and massage sessions a week related to her training for athletic competitions, and to tightly manage her dietary schedule — while allotting only a 30-minute period on Wednesdays for meetings with the constituents she represents.”

The carefully-worded complaint adds, “the allegations paint a picture of a Senator who is not only unresponsive to her constituents, but also disrespectful and even abusive to her employees and wholly unconcerned about her obligations under the law.”

The Daily Beast has posted a copy of the complaint here.

You can read The Beast’s full report here.

 

 

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Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report

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When he left for Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. George Santos also appears to have left a string of unpaid traffic violation fines and fees in two states, including red light, double parking, and overtime parking citations totaling thousands of dollars.

The embattled serial liar and freshman New York GOP lawmaker “may owe more than $3,400 in unpaid citations, according to records from New York City and Florida,” CBS News reports.

Included in that total is $1,299.10 from Florida for toll violations that “racked up late fees and were ultimately sent to collections agencies.”

READ MORE: George Santos Says Man Interviewed for Staff Position ‘Violated’ His Trust After Secretly Recording Conversation

It appears that in November of 2016, as soon as he got his New York driver’s license after having one in Florida, a car previously ticketed via a red light camera whose plates match one registered to Santos “began piling up citations in New York City — 29 in the next two and a half years, according to city government records, which do not identify the drivers of vehicles being ticketed.”

“More than $1,800 in payments were made for 17 citations, but another 12 remain unpaid, with $2,142.61 still due, according to city records.”

CBS News also points to a New York Post report from January revealing “a Nissan Rogue driven frequently by Santos in recent months had been issued speeding tickets at least five times since he was elected on Nov. 8, ‘including four times in school zones.'”

Santos is under numerous state and federal investigations that span the gamut from campaign finance to allegedly stolen charity funds donated to save the life of a veteran’s service dog. The dog died after the vet could not afford to pay for the operation.

READ MORE: ‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

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‘Breathtaking’: Economists Stunned by Job Growth ‘Boom’ as Unemployment Drops to Level Not Seen Since 1969

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The year was 1969: Congress certified the results of the election, officially declaring Richard Nixon would be the 37th President of the United States, Joe Namath led the New York Jets to win Super Bowl III, The Beatles released the soundtrack from their hit film “Yellow Submarine,” and unemployment was 3.4%.

It’s been 54 years since unemployment was at 3.4%, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released January’s report  Friday morning, stunning economists who expected unemployment to go up, not down.

Economists projected 187,000 new jobs would be added to the U.S. economy in January. Instead, the number came in at 517,000, Forbes reported. Prior months were also adjusted to be better than first reported.

READ MORE: ‘Anyone Who Thinks This Is Economy Is in Recession Is Bananas’: Economists Cheer ‘Hot’ Biden Jobs Report

“This is a breathtaking number. That spike in stories about layoffs? It was about a small unrepresentative slice of the economy. Real America is still getting back to work,” crowed Professor Justin Wolfers, the popular University of Michigan School of Economics professor, a senior fellow at Brookings.

“Average job growth over the past 3 months is a cracking +356k. A boom!” Wolfers cheered.

“We haven’t seen unemployment this low since before Woodstock, baby,” he added. “Groovy.”

Wolfers wasn’t done. He blasted those who continue to talk about recession: “This is a final nail in the coffin of all the 2022 recessionistas. When average job growth is this high we call it a BOOM.”

READ MORE: ‘When Was Your Most Recent Period?’: Student Athletes in Florida May Be Required to Share Menstrual History

For those who just want the bottom line, Wolfers offered this take on the jobs report: “It’s all good news.”

“January marked the 25th straight month of solid job growth,” The Washington Post reports, observing that the “labor market shattered expectations.” The Post adds: “the labor market remains formidable, inflation is beginning to normalize and there are signs that the global economy may be on stronger footing than originally feared.”

 

Image: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy, Thursday, January 26, 2023, at Steamfitters Local 602 United Association Mechanical Trades School in Springfield, Virginia. Official White House Photo by Erin Scott via Flickr

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