Opinion writer

“If Nazis or KKK or white supremacists just want to stand peacefully on a street corner and hold up a sign saying they hate Jews or they hate black people … that is protected speech. I have no issue with that. But that’s not what happened here.”

If you know the name Roberta Kaplan, it’s probably because of United States v. Windsor, the 2013 Supreme Court case that hastened marriage equality in this nation. But now Kaplan, along with co-counsel Karen Dunn, is waging a different battle. “We are not suing them because they hate Jews or they hate blacks or they hate foreigners. That’s not the case,” Kaplan told me in the latest episode of “Cape Up.” “It’s not about defamation. It’s about people being hurt.”


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The case was brought by Integrity First for America, a nonprofit that hired Kaplan and Dunn to represent 11 plaintiffs from Charlottesville against 26 defendants. The defendants include named people, such as Richard Spencer and Christopher Cantwell, and organizations, such as the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and Nationalist Front.

Using Reconstruction-era laws, the IFA suit seeks punitive damages to hold the bigots accountable for the terror they unleashed on Charlottesville on Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 — terror that led to the death of Heather Heyer. Kaplan believes the case’s chances are good because of all the evidence of premeditated harm they have even before they go through the discovery process.

“We have extensive evidence before what happened of their planning of the events that happened. We have extensive evidence on videotape and everything else of what they did. There are pictures in the complaint of them punching people and macing people,” Kaplan said during the interview at the WNYC radio studios in New York. “And then … we have extensive evidence afterwards bragging about what they did and taking delight in the fact that someone was killed and that people were hurt.”

Edie Windsor, left, and lawyer Roberta Kaplan arrive at the Supreme Court in 2013. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Listen to the podcast to hear Kaplan talk more about the case, including specific examples of the hatred sluicing across social media platforms before, during and after the horrible events of Charlottesville. And hear her reminisce about Edie Windsor, who died last month, and what the marriage equality heroine told Kaplan about her latest mission.

“She was so proud of it all and said to me, ‘Robbie, go get ’em!’”

“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever else you listen to podcasts.