tv Nightline ABC November 23, 2021 12:37am-1:06am PST
this is "nightline." >> tonight, holiday horror. how could it happen? the christmas parade that turned deadly in an instant. >> there's like seven injured that way. >> i literally sawus extremism. the ground breaking lawsuit trying to hold organizers of that deadly charlottesville riot account an financially. >> this is a turning point in history. this is a turning point in our understanding of hate crimes. >> the plaintiffs hoping to bankrupt the extremist groups.
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the mayor of waukesha described his city's holiday parade as a norman rockwell type of event that became a nightmare. a day later we're learning more about the victims, the suspect, and just how something so horrific could happen in this quiet city. abc's alex perez is in wisconsin. >> reporter: it was meant to be a day of joy and cheer. the annual waukesha, wisconsin christmas parade, back for the first time since the pandemic. quickly it became a scene of horror, as an suv swerved through the crowd. [ screams ] >> oh, my god! >> there's like seven injured down there. there's so many down there. >> reporter: these images from above, showing entire families, children, and parade participants, desperately trying but unable to escape the vehicle's path.
people terrified, many screaming for loved ones. the violent incident killing at least five people and injuring 48. 18 children hospitalized, 6 in critical condition. >> there were just so many bodies in the road. then i saw them start to pick them up, there were like little kids. >> i'm beyond grateful my daughters are here. they are with me, but there are some people that don't have that privilege. that's heartbreaking to me. >> reporter: matthew was with his two girls, ages 2 and 5, seconds before the incident they wanted some of the candy being handed out. what were you guys doing when the chaos struck? >> she said daddy, can i get that piece of candy? i had no, honey, you stay with me. don't go past this line. there's a reason i said that. not even a minute later, that's
where the suv drove by. >> reporter: the vehicle sped for more than a third of a dial down main street, barreling past crowds and marchers, before slamming into a high school band and other groups. the horrifying moments caught on camera from a neighbor's balcony. >> my son was in the parade marching with waukesha south high school band. i was helping pick up some of the instruments still laying in the street, and i picked up a crushed, bloody saxophone. it was -- it was -- it was pretty awful. >> reporter: according to police, an officer discharged their weapon in an attempt to stop the vehicle. no bystanders were hit by the gunfire, but the hurling truck narrowly missing families lined up to share in the holiday spirit. >> you have so many people who are there just to spread joy and cheer and be positive, and it just changes everything in an instant. >> reporter: dan snyderman's record shop is on the parade
route. about 60 people ran in for refuge. what happened? >> i opened my front door and just started pulling people inside. i said just come inside, come inside. >> reporter: he helped perform first aid on some of the liter people bounce off that car, and you could hear thud, thud, thud, thud after he drove through that. and you could hear it, which is a sound i'll never forget. >> reporter: among the victims, the dance team, the dancy grannies, who were performing at the parade, losing members of their group. >> we'll identify the victims that we know of at this time. i say this with great sorrow. virginia sorenson, 79-year-old female. leanna holmes, 70-year-old female.
jane coolidge, 52-year-old female. wilma pascal. >> reporter: tammy's husband tonight telling abc news her memory will bring joy to all who kew her. the suspect has been identified as 39-year-old darrell e. brooks, arrested and charged with five counts of first degree intentional homicide. >> he was taken into custody a short distance from the scene and we are confident he acted alone. there's no evidence that this is a terrorist incident. >> reporter: brooks, a local rapper who caseen here in a mus video, has a long criminal history. earlier this month, brooks was accused of using what appears to be the same vehicle to run over the mother of his child. he faces multiple charges from
that incident, but he was released on a $1,000 bail. >> when you look at someone that has mr. brooks' background and his propensity to act out aggressively or violently, a judge really needs to take a look at, is he a good risk to have on the street? >> reporter: this shows a police officer staring near an suv that may have been the same one involved in the holiday parade incident. >> we have information that the suspect, prior to the incident, was involved in a domestic disturbance, which was just minutes prior. and the suspect left that scene just prior to our arrival to that domestic disturbance. >> as we go into the holiday season, it's extremely important as there are more public gatherings, to think about the security, with the limitations that that has with it. do you have the exits, entrances, and the side streets sufficiently blocked to at least
head off any car-ramming potential event? >> reporter: tonight, hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil to honor the victims. the city, shaken by tragedy, starting the holiday season, mourning a tragic loss of life. >> our thanks to alex. up next, the ground breaking lawsuit, fighting the extremist right. finally getting there... ...is the best! but with febreze freshness in your car driving there is pretty darn good too. enjoy 30 days of freshness with febreze car. ♪la, la, la, la, la♪ is struggling to manage your type 2 diabetes knocking you out of your zone? lowering your a1c with once-weekly ozempic® can help you get back in it. oh, oh, oh, ozempic®! my zone... lowering my a1c, cv risk, and losing some weight... now, back to the game!
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virginia. ending in the death of heather hey heyer. now, nine plaintiffs are suing the rally's organizers for millions, claiming these white nationalists set in motion a weekend of terror. here's juju chang. >> you will not replace us! >> reporter: it was a weekend of bloodshed that shook america. it started late on a summer friday night, the now infamous tiki torches. hundreds of men marching in the darkness, lighting up the night chanting messages of hate. >> you will not replace us! >> reporter: throughout the weekend, marchers and counterprotestors clashing again and again in charlottesville, virginia, culminating in deadly mayhem. when james fields, jr., drove his car into the crowd of people, injuring dozen,
murdering heather heyer. he was convicted of first degree murder, but her mother, susan, says she hopes the organizers of the unite the right rally also face justice. >> this is a turning point in history. this is a turning point in our understanding of hate crime. >> reporter: now, four years later, a civil lawsuit alleging white nationalists set in motion the weekend of terror. >> what happened four years ago was no accident. it was planned in advance. >> reporter: the civil lawsuit brought by nine plaintiffs, including some injured in the car crash that weekend, seeking millions in damages. >> we need to use the tools we have to hold violent extremism accountable. >> reporter: four years after hatred erupted on those streets, the city of charlottesville, now at an uneasy peace. >> this torch march went up and around and made its way back
down the lawn here. this is where students and faculty are. >> reporter: amy is the executive director for integrity first for america, a nonprofit organization representing the nine plaintiffs. >> what happened here? >> they chanted all sorts of racist, vile things. one of our plaintiffs said he thought he was going to be burned alive. they testified how they had to keep their heads down because they were being pepper sprayed. so when you hear about them gassing jews and they're using pepper spray, it's not an accident. >> reporter: the ifa has been digging into the main organizers of the rally, 24 in total, arguing those defendants conspired for months. then celebrated the violence that occurred. the jury now deliberating a verdict. >> our plaintiffs have collected over 5.3 terabytes of digital evidence in this case. >> that's a treasure trove of operational data on hate groups. >> i think what this case and
trial has done is peel back the layers of how these groups operate. >> reporter: richard spencer is one of the 24 named defendants. a well-known figure in the altd right community, i spoke with him five years ago after he hailed trump with a nazi salute. >> hail trump. hail our people, hail victory. >> you gave a speech and you said hail trump, hail victory. you laugh. why? >> because that was said in a spirit of irony and xub rans. >> what is exuberant and fun about mass murder? >> i said hail trump but held up a glass of whisky. >> it's not a roman salute, you know that. it's a nazi party salute. are you trying to normalize racism? >> absolutely. i'm trying to normalize my ideas of the alt-right. i don't want the alt-right to be a fringe movement. i want it to be a dominant
movement. >> one of the reasons extremism has grown and thrived is because of the lack of accountability. so holding spencer and the other defendants accountable is to counteract that. >> another aim of the lawsuit is to do financial harm to these organizations and individuals. >> historically, civil litigation has played such a crucial role and impacting the finances, the operations of these hate groups and their leaders. in our case, defendants like richard spencer have talked about the financial impact that this has had. >> reporter: richard spencer said he would have never taken part in the charlottesville demonstration if he thought a malign conspiracy to engage in violence existed. he said this case is a free speech issue. >> it could be argued that the unite the right protestors were simply exercising their free speech rights. >> if these neonazis had set up with their chants, spewing their
hate, it would have been protected conduct. but that's not what happened. they planned violence in great detail, for months in advance. they came to charlottesville and engaged in that violence. >> reporter: the crux of this trial, a rarely used law. the1871, passed 150 years ago. >> these klansman would use violence and intimidation as a means to scare freed slaves from using their recently won rights. so in our plaintiff's case, for example, right here, they were peacefully counterprotesting white supremacists who descended on their town and they were surrounded, attacked. that is precisely the sort of thing that this law was meant to protect against. >> reporter: beyond charlottesville, the kkk act is being used in a number of other cases, including an ongoing lawsuit against donald trump and others, filed by capitol police officers after the january
riots, accusing trump of conspiring with white supremacists in an unlawful bid to stay in power. >> if the kkk act is successful here, what implications might that have for the january 6 sflil >> we hope this case can be a model for accountability. that in other instances of violent extremism, we have the tools to take action. >> reporter: an attorney for three of the defendants told abc news that we're confident the jury has seen this case for what it is, and we look forward to a verdict in my client's favor. while a representative for another named defendant said that they hated what happened that day, but they were not there. they were at home watching this on the news, and that they don't associate with alt-right leaders. >> you will not replace us! >> reporter: that weekend in august was the third alt-right gathering that occurred in charlottesville, in what became known as the summer of hate.
court papers alleging that the organizers used the controversy over the removal of a statue of confederate general robert e. lee as an excuse to bring the alt-right together that summer. >> what was it like to have these protestors marching through your neighborhoods? >> well, it was frightening, because most of us have never lived through something like that, right? but at the same time, this is a community of african american people that went through jim crow. >> reporter: andrea douglas is an art historian, teaching the history of charlottesville and its confederate statues. ises there is every reason why the alt-right would come to charlottesville. it was a confederate space. >> reporter: she believes we need to examine why they were erected in the first place. >> they were resurrecting their heroes who fought to maintain the lifestyle of the south.
these objects were memorializing an ideology that was largely grounded in enslaveent. >> reporter: earlier this year, the virginia supreme court ruled in favor of removing the robert e. lee statue. now for many in a community still haunted by the summer of hate, the civil trial may bring some semblance of peace. >> the wounds of what happened have not been healed. there are people who will never be the same again. >> reporter: heather heyer's mom says she will never be the same. >> anyone who has had a child murdered can tell you it's gut wrenching. i'm not going to let her life and death be in vain. >> reporter: she too believes that grappling with one's history, as painful as that may be, is key to beginning the healing. >> almost no one in my generation, and i just turned 65, knows much about the racial history of our country.
we never admit what we have done in the past. if we never -- and i mean we as a country, if we never acknowledge history, then we can't heal from it. >> how would you want heather to be remembered? >> i would like people to stop putting her on a pedestal. she was a normal 32-year-old person, a little on the wild and woolly side, frankly. the lesson of heather is, you don't have to be a saint in order to do something good in the world. in fact, be your authentic self. but when the time comes, don't hesitate, don't look away. just do the right thing. >> our thanks to juju. up next, the california high school football team on the verge of making history.
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riverside cubs are one game away from winning their school's first ever state championship. they're deaf, but they're 12-0 against teams that can all clear. this running back signing deaf people can do anything. we're not the stereotype that's out there. before friday's semifinal game, family and friends cheered them on from the stands. saying afterwards, deaf communities, this is for you guys. good for them. that's "nightline" for this evening. see you right back here same time tomorrow.
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