Bloch spoke about litigating high-profile civil rights cases, including the recent federal civil rights lawsuit he led against the organizers of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
(February 3, 2022; Sarasota, FL) Acclaimed civil rights litigator Michael Bloch visited Hershorin Schiff Community Day School on Friday, January 28, as part of the school’s
International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration. As a tenacious litigator, Bloch has taken on several high-profile civil rights cases, including the federal lawsuit he led against the organizers of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. Bloch discussed his fight for civil rights with students across all grade levels. In the process, Community Day School students considered the ongoing struggle against white supremacy and racism, both yesterday and today.
Bloch gave the students a close-up look at the November 2021 trial of Richard Spencer and other white supremacists responsible for the bloody Charlottesville rally in 2017. To make the historical connection clear, the sideshow accompanying his talk contrasted archival images of Hitler and his Nazi thugs with violent scenes of modern-day white supremacists in Charlottesville. Inevitable? Only if good people do nothing.
“I’m here to talk about what each of us can do to fight injustice, hatred and racism,” he said.
His top advice for the Community Day students?
“Stand up and speak out. Join a protest march, or volunteer at an organization that supports peace and justice. Or simply speak out when someone says something inappropriate. Stand up against hatred. Stand up against racism.”
Paraphrasing the celebrated civil rights activist Rabbi Israel Dresner, Bloch added that, “Second only to silence, the greatest danger to man is loss of faith in man’s capacity to act.”
Bloch discussed his own anti-racist actions and strategy. He recounted how he and his legal team sued the rally’s organizers under the 150-year-old Ku Klux Klan Act. The goal? The rally had led to personal injuries for the nine plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. But seeking damages for their injuries wasn’t enough. The lawsuit aimed to bankrupt and dismantle the white supremacists’ organizations. The jury ultimately decided that the defendants were liable under Virginia law. The jury also found the racist organizations behind the rally to be liable. All told, those responsible for the violence were ordered to pay $26 million in damages.
“We have a system of laws and justice in the United States,” said Bloch. “We used that to successfully fight and defund white supremacists in the Charlottesville case. We proved that they had a conspiracy to commit violence and we won. But more than that, the community of Charlottesville, represented by this jury and by others, showed that this kind of hate is not acceptable in their community. They stood up to hate and injustice—and each one of you can, too.”
The students were profoundly moved by Bloch’s words. Robin Sweeting, the school’s director of grades K through 8, was too.
She saw the impact this talk made on the students. To her, that was a powerful validation of the school’s purpose.
“Our mission is to impact the world by creating a community where children of all faiths demonstrate integrity, academic excellence, and a desire to improve the world,” said Sweeting at the event. “Our students hail from a tapestry of races, ethnicities, religions, and nationalities. We find that our non-Jewish children are our greatest ambassadors against antisemitism. They proudly stand up against injustice and hate. We recently had a graduate start a club at her high school for students of all faiths to learn about one another. This is how you fight hate. You teach them while they are young.”
- Michael Bloch and Community Day School head of school Dan Ceaser with 6th grade students Blake Davidson and Evan Valdivia on January 28, 2022
- Community Day School head of school Dan Ceaser with Michael Bloch on January 28, 2022
- Community Day School head of school Dan Ceaser and Michael Bloch speak with second grade students on January 28, 2022
About Community Day School
The mission of the Hershorin Schiff Community Day School, which serves students in preschool through eighth grade, is to impact the world by creating a community where children of all faiths demonstrate integrity, academic excellence, and a desire to improve the world. Community Day offers a rigorous, project-based academic program in a diverse and vibrant learning environment rooted in the Jewish values of honesty, integrity, mutual trust and respect. For more information, visit communityday.org or call (941) 552-2770.