CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — After four weeks of testimony that highlighted some of the most hateful ideology coursing through the extreme right in the United States, lawyers presented their closing arguments on Thursday in the civil case stemming from the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
Over the course of the trial, the nine plaintiffs testified about their struggles with the lingering injuries from that day. Four of them were hit by the car driven by James Fields Jr., a defendant who is already serving multiple life sentences for the attack, which killed Heather Heyer, a counterprotester.
The plaintiffs testified that they suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, including insomnia, the inability to concentrate, flashbacks and panic attacks. Several wept on the stand while reliving the car attack and the night before, when neo-Nazis carrying torches marched through the streets shouting racist slogans.
...The larger goal of the lawsuit is to deter other extremists.
To an extent, the lawsuit, organized by a nonprofit organization called Integrity First for America, has already achieved a goal of deterring extremism.
Many of the defendants have been kicked off social media platforms that had allowed them to attract followers and to raise money. Mr. Cantwell and Mr. Spencer represented themselves because they could not afford lawyers, they said. Some of the groups have disbanded entirely or tried to rebrand to avoid being tied to the violent events.
“A lot of guys disappeared, they did not want to be associated with that,” Dillon Hopper, a former Marine and commander of a white nationalist group called Vanguard America, said in a deposition. “We lost a lot of members after Charlottesville because a lot of guys got scared.”
Some of the leaders turned on each other in court. “When did you determine that I was a sociopathic narcissist?” Mr. Spencer asked Mr. Kessler. Mr. Kessler went on at some length, calling him slimy, inhuman, robotic and “despicable to everyone you came in contact with.”