RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A former State Department official who became the target of harassment after posting a video showing the car attack during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville sued right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and others Tuesday.
Brennan Gilmore, who attended the August rally as a counterprotester, witnessed the attack that killed Heather Heyer and injured dozens more. He posted a video to Twitter, which went viral, and was interviewed by national media outlets. Soon after, white supremacists and others started spreading lies and conspiracy theories about him and threatened Gilmore and his family, the lawsuit said.
“After discussing what he had witnessed that day with a number of reporters, Mr. Gilmore soon became the target of right-wing conspiracy theories. Supporters of the alt-right and the ‘Unite the Right rally,’ including the defendants, created a new identity for Mr. Gilmore — the organizer and orchestrator of (accused driver James) Fields’ attack and a traitor to the United States,” the lawsuit alleged.
The defendants’ lies about Gilmore “quickly mobilized their army of followers to launch a campaign of harassment and threats” that continue to this day, the lawsuit said.
Gilmore suffered from hate mail and death threats, hacking attempts and in-person harassment, the lawsuit said. Gilmore and his parents’ known addresses were posted online, prompting local law enforcement to patrol his parents’ home.
“From Sandy Hook to ‘Pizzagate’ to Charlottesville, Las Vegas and now Parkland, the defendants thrive by inciting devastating real-world consequences with the propaganda and lies they publish as ‘news,'” Gilmore said in a news release. “Today, I’m asking a court to hold them responsible for the personal and professional damage their lies have caused me, and, more importantly, to deter them from repeating this dangerous pattern of defamation and intimidation.”
The lawsuit, which seeks a jury trial and damages to compensate Gilmore as well as punitive damages, was filed in federal court in Charlottesville. Georgetown Law’s Civil Rights Clinic is representing Gilmore.
“The First Amendment does not and cannot protect deliberate lies designed to incite incessant harassment and violence against private citizens,” Andrew Mendrala, supervising attorney of the clinic, said in a news release. “This case is a simple defense of democracy.”
The Associated Press requested comment from Jones and received an emailed link to an hour-long YouTube video of Jones addressing the suit.
Gilmore is a Virginia native who worked for years as a foreign service officer. Last year, he served as chief of staff for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello.
Charlottesville became a target for white nationalists after its city council voted to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a downtown park.
After several smaller rallies, hundreds of white nationalists and counter-protesters converged in downtown Charlottesville on Aug. 12. Fighting broke out before the event officially began, and the brawling went on for about an hour until an unlawful assembly was declared and the crowd was forced to disband.
Later, as counterdemonstrators were peacefully marching through downtown, the car barreled into the crowd. Heyer, 32, was killed.