Student government says U.Va. should pay 2017 rally victims $1 million

The University of Virginia’s Student Council is calling on the school to pay victims of the 2017 Unite the Right Rally $1 million, and apologize for not doing more to head-off violence during the tiki torch march on campus.

The council’s resolution came a week after a federal jury awarded about $26 million to nine plaintiffs, who sued 14 individuals and 10 organizers of the white nationalist and white supremacy rally in Charlottesville.

On Aug. 11, 2017, a group of white supremacists and white nationalists marched through the University of Virginia campus, shouting anti-Semitic and racist chants, ending at the statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of the Rotunda.

”While on university grounds, the white supremacist and neo-Nazis were allowed to verbally and physically assault counter protesters consisting of students, faculty and Charlottesville residents,” according to the student resolution. “These actions included hitting them, pouring lighter fluid on them, and burning them with their lit tiki torches, all in full view of police forces.”

The resolution cites a timeline in which university public safety officials became aware of the planned march but didn’t take action to prevent it.

Citing the City of Charlottesville’s official independent review of events leading to the Aug. 12, 2017, death of counterprotester Heather Heyer, the resolution found it “likely that the insufficient police response on Friday night emboldened people who intended to engage in similar acts of violence on Saturday [Aug. 12]. Anyone who came to Charlottesville to violently confront others was undoubtedly encouraged by what he saw in person or on video at U.Va.”

The resolution said Jim Ryan, the current president of the university, put out a statement acknowledging harm brought to the university and Charlottesville, and applauding the bravery of the plaintiffs who filed suit.

”President Ryan’s statement, however, did not acknowledge the large role U.Va. played not only in facilitating and allowing the violence of August 11th and 12th, but has also continued to uphold its legacy as an institution founded by a slave holder and constructed by enslaved laborers, that did not admit women or minorities until the 1970s, and in many ways has historically upheld white supremacy.”

The resolution suggests the university take several steps: “The Representative Body calls on the University of Virginia administration to acknowledge its complacency in the events of August 11th and 12th by drafting a formal letter of apology to those impacted, with specific interest in those students, faculty, staff, and community members who were physically or emotionally harmed.”

The students’ resolution calls on the university to “further support the plaintiffs of the civil trial and the survivors of the August 11th and August 12th white supremacist attacks by allocating aside (sic) $1 million dollars that would go to them directly.”

The resolution also calls on the Student Council to donate $700 to support the victims.

WTOP is seeking comment from the university,

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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