Before hundreds of neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, for the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, they gathered in person and on Discord, meticulously planning the deadly event, which has since been seared into American history.
On Discord, attendees coordinated rides, planned chants, discussed Virginia laws and talked about what gear to take. Leaders and planners of the rally answered questions, laid out its philosophy and told participants to be ready to die for the cause.
“We are angry. … There is an atavistic rage in us, deep in us, that is ready to boil over. There is a craving to return to an age of violence. We want a war,” Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, wrote in anticipation of the rally.
As it got closer, the rally took on new meaning. Organizers like Anglin wrote that it was no longer just about fighting to stop the removal of the city’s Robert E. Lee statue. Now, it was “something much bigger”: “a rallying point and battle cry for the rising Alt-Right movement.”
The chats, along with a mass of additional evidence, show that the violence on that August weekend was premeditated, attorneys for those injured and traumatized by the rally argue. On Monday, more than four years after the rally, the argument will be made in federal court, as attorneys for nine people injured on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017, seek financial compensation from about two dozen organizers in a massive civil lawsuit.
The case, the first major civil suit to be tried under the so-called Ku Klux Klan Act in years, could provide a model to hold those who incite right-wing extremist violence accountable, possibly changing the common understanding of who bears responsibility for violence.