A steady stream of leaked screenshots from the now-defunct chat server used to organize attendees at this month’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally shows that the white nationalists who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia were well-organized and came with the intention of committing brutal violence.
Unicorn Riot, a volunteer nonprofit media outlet, received hundreds of chat transcripts from the app Discord through an anonymous source, and has been publishing them in edited batches since the Aug. 12 rally. Eli Mosley, one of the organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally, told Wired that the screenshots of the chats appeared to be legitimate.
In some of the chats, posters shared photographs of themselves mugging with semi-automatic weapons or homemade shields. In others, they discussed the ideal thickness of PVC pipes that could be used for “thumping” counter-protesters and shared GoFundMe links urging like-minded people to fund their road trips to Charlottesville.
Most strikingly, a number of posts joked about plowing cars into crowds of peaceful protesters. James Alex Fields, Jr. allegedly killed one such counter-protester, Virginia native Heather Heyer, and injured at least 19 others when he rammed his Dodge Charger down a crowded street at the height of the rally.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) August 18, 2017
A lawyer for two counter-protesters hurt at the rally told Wired that the chats could be used to bolster their case against 28 groups and individuals involved, including organizer Jason Kessler. The transcripts demonstrated the premeditated intention to commit “violence and mayhem,” attorney Timothy Litzenburg told Wired, saying that they could serve as “the crux of the case.”
Many of the white nationalist leaders and groups who marched through the center of Charlottesville have shirked blame for the violence over the past two weeks, insisting they acted out against counter-protesters only in self-defense and actually were the victims of so-called “alt-left” and antifa.
But photographs and video of that afternoon show large groups of men wearing neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan regalia and bearing firearms, PVC pipes, weighted flagpoles, cans of teargas and shields. Fields and at least one other “Unite the Right” participant, white nationalist radio personality Christopher Cantwell, have been arrested for violent acts against counter-demonstrators.
Discord has since deleted the chats as well as several servers tied to the Charlottesville organizers, pledging to “take action against white supremacy, nazi ideology, and all forms of hate.” A number of other major technology and social media companies, including PayPal, Facebook, Squarespace, Patreon, GoDaddy and Spotify have taken similar steps to boot users affiliated with white nationalist or other hate groups.