A jury ruled on Tuesday that several white nationalist leaders who organized and attended the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, including Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler, and Christopher Cantwell, are liable for civil conspiracy under state law, and must pay more than $26 million in damages.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict on two federal conspiracy claims. The Unite the Right rally was held in response to Charlottesville's plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, with hundreds of white nationalists descending on the city, carrying tiki torches and shouting "Jews will not replace us!"
Nine people who said they were harmed during the rally filed a lawsuit against 12 individuals and five white supremacist organizations tied to the event, and more than half of the damages are owed by James Fields, a neo-Nazi who is now serving life in prison after driving his car into a crowd of protesters and killing one of them, 32-year-old Heather Heyer. During the trial, the defendants blamed each other and antifa for the violence, and repeatedly used racial slurs and promoted their white supremacist beliefs.
Susan Bro, Heyer's mother, said the verdict "sends a very clear message that hate speech put into action has consequences. The defendants were convicted with their own words that showed months of planning went into the rally. This was not a spontaneous event." Spencer told The Washington Post in an interview that the alt-right movement he helped create is "long dead and gone in my opinion. And it's buried. And I don't want to have anything to do with it, to be honest." He went on to claim he has "evolved a lot" and "the main thing is to move forward with integrity and seriousness."