Dozens were injured and three people died as a result of the Unite the Right Rally on August 12, 2017. Four years later on November 24, 2021 a Jury found the rally’s organizers liable for Civil Conspiracy to violate Virginia Code 8.01-42.1, often referred to as Virginia’s hate crime law, awarding $25 million in damages. This verdict effectively bankrupts some of the most prominent members of the White Supremacy Movement (WSM). Defendants included main rally organizer Jason Kessler, alt-right leader Richard Spencer, car attack perpetrator James Fields Jr., along with several far right individuals and organizations like the Traditional Workers Party, Identity Evropa, and League of the South. The trial featured testimony from victims, experts on the WSM, and the defendants themselves. Additional evidence in the form of the Rally organizers’ chat logs and communications shed light on the ways the WSM co-opts mainline political and cultural issues like free speech and historical preservation as cover for recruitment and racially motivated violence.
March 24 of this year — amidst a backdrop of removing Confederate statues in my hometown of Richmond — a piece of legislation shocked Virginians. Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill to abolish the death penalty, making Virginia the first state of the former Confederacy to do so and the twenty-third overall.