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Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Hillary Clinton Screens “No Accident” Documentary at Sidwell

The documentary “No Accident” opens with a clip of violent clashes erupting at the “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: HBO.

On Feb. 23, Sidwell hosted former First Lady of the United States and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as part of a Politics and Prose sponsored event which took place in the school’s Robert L. Smith Meeting Room. The event was a screening of the new documentary “No Accident,” and Clinton began with an opening speech to the event’s attendees. Afterwards, she moderated a panel in which the audience could pose questions to the subjects of the documentary.

“No Accident” made its debut in early October of 2023 on the HBO streaming service. The movie, directed by founder of Catalyst Films Kristi Jacobson and produced by Michelle R. Carney and Alexandra Moss, covered the story of a group of white supremacists on trial. The documentary opens with a clip from the 2017 “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a mob of white supremacists fought against counter protesters at a public park. The event broke out into violence and chaos, leading to a death and several injuries. Following the rally, town wide memorials were held to honor the woman, Heather Heyer, who had lost her life in the rally. Many participants in this event also faced criminal charges. 

The documentary follows the lives of the lawyers who were involved in the case, Roberta Kaplan and Karen Dunn, and captures the events of a civil case filed in 2017, which attempted to hold the white supremacist protest leader accountable.

“[It was] really beautiful to see the compassion, intellect and deep work of those fighting for justice and letting their lives speak.

— Adele Paynter

The lawsuit alleged that the event was not an isolated, spontaneous gathering. “[This event’ was a well-planned and coordinated conspiracy to incite racially motivated violence and to advance a race-war agenda,” the document stated

“No Accident”  shows the attorneys formulating their argument that, when Fields drove into the crowd, it wasn’t a mistake, but rather the result of “covert planning.”

The lawyers and their team were able to mainly base their case off of evidence found on Discord, the platform used by the group of white supremacists to communicate and plan the protest. 

“No Accident” portrays the mental hardship that lawyers are subjected to in these types of cases, as well as the toll the case took on some of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs.

“These aren’t just isolated people,” Kaplan says in a trailer for the documentary. “It is part of a movement.”

 According to its producers, the documentary was made to spread awareness of the violent events of the rally, promote awareness of racist events and capture the difficulty that cases like these put lawyers under.

After screening the film, Clinton moderated a panel composed of counter-protestors and their attorneys.

 Upper School Guidance Counselor Patrice Copeland stated that one of the most notable parts of the panel was when one of the lawyers talked about his interaction with members of the white supremacist group. The lawyer had stated that when one of the white supremacists was questioned about his involvement in the protest with accusations of racism, homophobia and leading a cult, he seemed primarily concerned with refuting the lawyers’ claim regarding his use of social media; the lawyer added that he seemed proud of his racist remarks and actions. 

The lawyers also shared that they decided to take on this case after learning about the strong presence of the Nazis in the current era; the Nazis’ commitment to their cause captivated the lawyers.

Lower School Principal Adele Paynter was moved by the event and stated that it was “really beautiful to see the compassion, intellect and deep work of those fighting for justice and  letting their lives speak.”

Paynter also noted that she enjoyed Clinton’s presence at the school and “really appreciated how clear eyed [she] was on naming the challenges we face and how thoughtful she was about how we can collectively take action.

Clinton’s documentary screening was primarily intended to celebrate the lawyers who worked on the Charlottesville case and to inform people about the racism epidemic that had been exacerbated in recent years. 

To amplify the film’s message, the group of lawyers involved with the case are currently on a tour across the United States to continue spreading their story.

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Hillary Clinton Screens “No Accident” Documentary at Sidwell