Nazis' own words get used against them to prove they came to Charlottesville with violent intent
White supremacists march on Charlottesville, VA during the August 2017 "Unite the Right" rally that left a woman dead. Image via Karla Cote/Creative Commons.

Michael Bloch, counsel for the plaintiffs in the civil conspiracy trial against the organizers of the 2017 Unite the Right rally, hammered relentlessly on the two themes of violence and racism as defendant David Matthew Parrott, the co-director of the Traditionalist Worker Party, took the witness stand on Tuesday, the 12th day of the trial in federal court in Charlottesville, Va.

To prove their claims in the case brought by the nonprofit Integrity First for America, the plaintiffs, nine Virginia residents who were physically injured or emotionally traumatized by the violence at the Unite the Right rally, must prove a violation of the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act by establishing by a preponderance of evidence that the defendants conspired to commit racially motivated violence.

The third theme that Bloch hammered on was agreement.

By questioning almost a dozen organizers and others involved in the white nationalist movement at the time of the rally, lawyers for the plaintiffs painstakingly mapped out relationships, communications and planning efforts among the constellation of leaders in the fractious alt-right movement.

And so, the defendants have pushed back by teasing out anecdotes about their rivalries, squabbles, ego battles and various differences is ideology, culture and strategy to poke holes in the case against them.

Through previous testimony, the jury had previously learned about the "hard right" faction of the alt-right coalition that included Traditionalist Worker Party, along with allies League of the South and National Socialist Movement, who ignored a plan by primary organizer Jason Kessler to assemble at McIntyre Park and shuttled to Emancipation Park. Instead, Traditionalist Worker Party and their allies drove to the Market Street Parking Garage and marched in a column to Emancipation Park.

But Parrott's own account of the Unite the Right rally, an after-event report he titled "Catcher in the Reich," provides evidence of coordination between the two factions that undermines the defendants' courtroom efforts to play up their differences. In his account, Parrott wrote that Traditionalist Worker Party and its "hard right" allies joined together once they made it to Emancipation Park "to help create two shield walls" for "the fight" against counter-protesters.

Then, he wrote: "While most of the Identity Evropa men were occupied on other fronts, they sent a detachment of fighters to assist us and relay intelligence to Jason Kessler and other organizers. They offered more fighters, but we had our positions amply covered."

James Kolenich — the lawyer representing Kessler, Identity Evropa and the group's founder, Nathan Damigo — tried to batter Parrott's characterization of the intergroup dynamic during his cross-examination.

"It was a flowery explanation of Mr. Kessler," Parrott testified. "It was for the website, and it was not intended to be a legal document."

At one point during Kolenich's testy cross-examination, Judge Norman K. Moon described Parrott as an "adverse witness."

Kolenich pressed Parrott to acknowledge that Kessler didn't tell the Traditionalist Worker Party and their allies to enter the park at the location they chose for themselves.

"I don't believe he told us to go into the other entrance," Parrott testified. "He understood that we were no longer listening to him."

In another fusillade against the defendants' efforts to portray themselves as rivals working at cross-purposes, the plaintiffs showed the jury a photo of Damigo walking into Emancipation Park surrounded by Traditionalist Worker Party members. (David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader who was invited to the rally as a surprise guest, was also shown entering the park with Traditionalist Worker Party.)

"It was clear he snuck in that way," Parrott said of Damigo. "I assumed he used a crowd of nationalists to weave in."

Jason Kessler, who took out the permit for the rally and who has been described by Judge Moon as "perhaps the overarching organizer of the event," has yet to take the witness stand.

Roberta Kaplan, one of the lead counsels, told Judge Moon that the plaintiffs plan to rest their case on Thursday, with the exception of calling former National Socialist Movement commander Jeff Schoep on Friday because that's the only day he's available.

Moon had previously planned to take Thursday off for Veteran's Day, but members of the jury agreed to work through the holiday to keep the trial on schedule for completion at the end of next week.

As a co-director, chief information officer and self-described "underboss" of the now-defunct Traditionalist Worker Party in 2017, Parrott attempted through his testimony on Tuesday to deflect accusations that the group was violent.

Although his previous testimony in deposition indicated he believed that violent protests provided Traditionalist Worker Party with an opportunity to fundraise, he sought to create the opposite impression while testifying in court on Tuesday — that avoiding violence was the mark of a successful event.

"Safe, legal and fun," was the mantra he repeated.

The plaintiffs undercut Parrott's positions by showing the jury a statement he made on Discord celebrating a June 2016 rally in Sacramento, Calif. attended by Traditionalist Worker Party members that resulted in several stabbings.

"Sacto was incredible, and it could only happen in California because of the tight gun laws," Parrott wrote.

Then, he wrote, "Anaheim was awesome too," referring to a clash between Trump supporters and leftists during the 2016 primary. While celebrating the incident, Parrott testified that no members of Traditionalist Worker Party were involved.

"I was not referring to the stabbing," he testified. "I was referring to the fact that Antifa f*cked around and found out."

"Antifa was attacking normal families, not radicals like myself," Parrott continued. "Ever since 2016, this country has done nothing about stopping Antifa violence to the political process."

Michael Bloch, counsel for the plaintiffs, moved to strike Parrott's statement about "Antifa," but Judge Moon ruled that it would remain on the record.

Bloch also called attention to statements Parrott made on the group's Discord server to other members while watching a livestream of an event at Auburn University in April 2017, when the Traditionalist Worker Party provided security for a speech by co-defendant Richard Spencer.

"It looks like the cops are actually doing their jobs at this point, unfortunately," Parrott wrote at the time. "Wanted to watch Heimbach chimpout on livestream."

"Chimpout" is a racist term that denotes irrational violence.

"We were all watching the livestream," Parrott testified. "I was lamenting that everything was going smoothly. That was the joke."

The plaintiffs presented numerous communications establishing Parrott's racism and antisemitism; overall, the allegation that the defendants are racist has proven to be the easiest lift for the plaintiffs throughout the trial.

On Tuesday, Bloch showed the jury an exchange on Traditionalist Worker Party's Discord server in April 2017.

A member with the username Backstreet Goy said, "Nothing is going to get done until we gas all the kikes."

Parrott responded: "Try to keep the hardliner stuff off the public chat. It protects you."

Bloch asked Parrott if the statement referred to the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

"It becomes an ironic meme at that time, but it certainly does refer to that," Parrott testified.

The plaintiffs also showed the jury a statement by Parrott on Discord in which he said, "My hatred extends only to Jews."

Parrott and fellow Traditionalist Worker Party leader Matthew Heimbach have made little effort during the trial to downplay their anti-Semitism, acknowledging that their group sought to create a white ethno-state and that they considered Jews to be a race apart from whites. They both testified about their admiration of Adolf Hitler.

Both plaintiffs and defense counsel attempted to batter Parrott's credibility.

During cross-examination by Kolenich, Parrott admitted that he made a false declaration in another legal proceeding in Ohio.

"It was later shown to be false despite my best recollection," Parrott testified.

"Just because you write something and sign your name to it does not mean the information was true," Kolenich said, attempting to get Parrott to agree on the stand.

The plaintiffs presented a Facebook post from Parrott in which he wrote: "If you were involved in any altercation in Charlottesville and you haven't disabled your social media, you should do so."

Through his questioning, plaintiffs' counsel indicated that several defendants had lost data by deleting social media accounts, or in Schoep's case, dropping his phone in the toilet and in Vanguard America leader Dillon Hopper's case, "electrocuting" his phone.

Parrott and Heimbach have described each other as "best friends," and the evidence of potential destruction of evidence introduced an embarrassing episode into the testimony.

Bloch noted that Parrott deleted texts exchanged with his then-wife, Jessica Parrott, who was also a member of Traditionalist Worker Party.

"That was a dramatic domestic incident," Parrott testified. "I deleted all my messages from my wife or her lover, who was Mr. Heimbach…. It was a grave error."

Evidence of Traditionalist Worker Party's racism and attempts to burnish their public image piled up.

In a private channel that Parrott set up on Discord for vetted members, he wrote, "This is the channel where we can and should confirm that Wes Bellamy is a n***er." (Bellamy served on Charlottesville City Council from 2016 through 2019.)

Co-defendant Christopher Cantwell, who is representing himself, cross-examined Parrott, and Judge Moon allowed them to banter about racist jokes. Discussing the evidence, Parrott and Cantwell both casually uttered the N-word in court.

"The implied joke is that you can speak more freely," Cantwell said, attempting to draw Parrott out.

"Even now, I'm sensitive to the fact that it could be hurtful," Parrott testified, audibly cringing.

But Cantwell continued.

"Was it unusual in alt-right circles to say Wes Bellamy is a n***er?"

"Mr. Bellamy has a long history of vitriolic anti-white statements," Parrott replied. "They were quite choice, and he definitely was fair game for ribald humor."