Messages presented in federal court on Monday appear to show an organizer of the murderous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville ordering his supporters to mislead law enforcement about the potential scale of the 2017 protest

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia – An organizer of the murderous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville appeared to ask his supporters to mislead law enforcement about the potential scale of the 2017 protest, according to communications presented in court Monday.

Jason Kessler is one of two dozen defendants who testify in a federal civil lawsuit to determine whether they engaged in a conspiracy to commit racially-motivated violence during the rally, according to the Washington Post.

Kessler filed a permit with local authorities for the rally that brought together hundreds of white supremacists in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, 2017, apparently to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The weekend turned deadly when avowed Hitler admirer James A. Fields Jr. crashed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring dozens. Fields is serving a life sentence for murder and hate crimes. A Virginia appeals court upheld the convictions on Tuesday.

The current Charlottesville lawsuit seeks damages against two dozen white nationalists and organizations and a ruling that the defendants violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. It is funded by Integrity First for America, a nonprofit civil rights organization.

Kessler testified in week four of the trial after statements from white supremacists, far-right extremism experts and plaintiffs allege physical and emotional damage from the violence over the weekend.

Another organizer, Chris Cantwell, was also questioned in court on Monday, testifying to the close coordination between the defendants ahead of the rally, the Washington Post reported.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs presented evidence on Monday from messages, social media posts and podcasts depicting Kessler and Cantwell as two leaders eager for a weekend of violence in Charlottesville.

Kessler defended himself against the allegation that he was seeking to mislead the police. He argued that he did not want the protesters to speculate with the police and interrupt the clearance process.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Bloch presented evidence showing Cantwell using slurs and bragging about violence on his podcast, as well as a video of him displaying several guns he had brought to the rally.

Cantwell admitted in court that when he shared a cell block with Fields, he greeted him with a Nazi salute and gave him a hug.

“I’m so sorry that this is happening to you,” Cantwell told Fields, according to the Washington Post.

Both Kessler and Cantwell bragged to their online followers about how they thought the matter was going for them. According to the newspaper, Kessler chatted in real time with numerous fans during the trial, posted photos of the witnesses and provided updates on the testimony.

During the trial, the defendants attempted to blame the violence, blaming each other, the police and anti-fascist activists.

Kessler said on Monday he had proposed the torchlight march, but said other organizers “controlled” his direction. Kessler maintained he was keen to create a peaceful rally, but plaintiffs’ attorney Karen Dunn presented evidence that appeared to point to the contrary.

“If you want a chance to smash Antifa skulls in self-defense, don’t open the rack,” Kessler wrote in a June 2017 message to the court.

The post is one of hundreds of leaks from the group chat platform Discord where, according to Dunn, Kessler was the event coordinator and moderator of a dedicated rally server. The leaked messages show groups discussing leadership and planning, with calls for violence.

The trial is expected to last until Friday.


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