Clergy protest first trial for Charlottesville rally accused

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Lawyers will present closing arguments in the trial of three men accused of helping to organize last year’s rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which a woman was killed.

Daniel Borden, 47, Gavin McInnes, 35, and Jason Kessler, 45, were charged with conspiring to hold a rally outside the University of Virginia’s campus without a permit, according to the Charlottesville City Attorney’s Office.

They were also charged with a third charge of disobeying a lawful order from law enforcement.

McInnes and Kessler were present at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017, where a driver drove into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Kessler organized and promoted the August 12 rally, but McInnes and Borden are charged for their involvement with the Traditionalist Worker Party, which McInnes co-founded.

At least nine others face related charges.

Opening statements began March 1. Each of the 10-minute legal argument will be followed by an hour of closing arguments by one or more of the defense lawyers.

Both sides’ closing arguments could include a mix of testimony and documentation.

Racist rally

McInnes organized the Aug. 12 protest, which attracted hundreds of white nationalists to the university’s Grounds, leading to violent clashes between white nationalists and counterprotesters.

The state maintains that the white nationalists, “began their march from a location on the University of Virginia campus not required by the permits” and “had no right to demonstrate” in the park where they marched, the city of Charlottesville said in court documents.

Borden and McInnes are charged with disobeying a lawful order from police after they stayed behind and prevented police from removing the black-clad protesters from the park where the rally was supposed to take place, the city said.

Borden and McInnes told CNN affiliate WTVR that they thought the protest was legal, according to court documents.

“If I had to do it again, I would definitely say yes to the permit,” Borden said.

“We could see from where we were standing that everybody had a permit,” McInnes said.

Lawyers for the men contend their clients were merely exercising their free speech rights and weren’t directly involved in or involved in any of the violence.

Over 100 people were charged with crimes related to the “Unite the Right” rally, and 20 pleaded guilty, according to court documents.

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