By Hannah Allam and Ellie Silverman, Washington Post. Read the full article here.
Such detailed planning is central to a lawsuit filed by nine Charlottesville residents who allege physical harm and emotional distress during Unite the Right, the deadly two-day rally where a torch-carrying mob chanting “Jews will not replace us!” awakened the country to a resurgence of far-right extremism. After four years of legal wrangling, a civil trial begins Monday in a federal courtroom in Charlottesville, where a jury will decide whether the organizing of the rally amounted to a conspiracy to engage in racially motivated violence.
“Defendants brought with them to Charlottesville the imagery of the Holocaust, of slavery, of Jim Crow, and of fascism,” the plaintiffs say in the complaint. “They also brought with them semi-automatic weapons, pistols, mace, rods, armor, shields, and torches.”
The planners’ messages, part of a leaked trove from the group-chat platform Discord, are laced with slurs against Black and Jewish people, along with violent fantasies of cracking skulls and driving into crowds. One meme showed “John Deere’s New Multi-Lane Protester Digestor,” a made-up vehicle to steamroll opponents — a macabre forecast of the car-ramming attack that would kill 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Heyer and injure at least 19 others.
Because only a handful of participants faced criminal charges, the plaintiffs’ lawyers say, the civil suit is one way to correct what they call a lack of accountability that paved the way for other extremist violence, including the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The racist, bigoted imagery on display in Charlottesville in August 2017 — a shock to much of the nation at the time — is now regularly spotted at right-wing gatherings throughout the country.