Can a lawsuit stop the Nazis? (feat. Amy Spitalnick and Heidi Beirich)

  
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For the debut podcast edition of The Racket I talked to Amy Spitalnick, Executive Director of Integrity First for America, the organization behind the federal lawsuit against the organizers of the 2017 Charlottesville rampage. I also talked with Heidi Beirich, an expert on global far-right extremism about the bigger implications of the case.

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Transcript (may contain transcription errors):

Jonathan Katz:

Hello, and welcome. You are listening to The Racket, a brand new podcast that is piggybacking off the relaunch of my newsletter, which has an old name, which you don't need to worry about anymore because it's now just The Racket. And if you've been reading The Racket at theracket.news for the last of couple days, you know that I have been covering in depth, the lawsuit Sines v. Kessler, which is the big lawsuit against the organizers, against the conspirators who conspired to sow mayhem on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, back in 2017.

Jonathan Katz:

And I'm going to be talking later in this episode to Heidi Beirich who is an expert on extremism. But first I am chatting with Amy Spitalnick, who's the executive director of Integrity First for America, which is the group that has organized the plaintiff's case. Amy, thanks for joining me.

Amy Spitalnick:

Thanks so much for having me.

Jonathan Katz:

So tell me a little bit first about Integrity First for America. It's not a very old organization.

Amy Spitalnick:

No. IFA was founded in 2017, recognizing that there would be gaps in the work meant to hold accountable those who threaten the principles of our democracy. And as IFA was getting off the ground, Charlottesville happened, Unite the Right happened. And it was crystal clear that it was precisely the sort of moment IFA was designed to help address, to spring into action. And so within days of the violence, our legal team in conjunction with IFA was working closely together because it was very obvious very quickly that what happened wasn't an accident, but rather it was planned meticulously in advance and obviously resulted in horrific violence.

Amy Spitalnick:

And so since then, our main focus at IFA has been the Charlottesville case. It's too important, frankly, too resource intensive, even with extensive pro bono work and just too crucial, not just to the justice we're seeking for our plaintiffs, but to the broader fight against extremism for it not to be the focus of our work. And so four years later, we are finally going to trial here. But it has been four years for IFA, four years for the plaintiffs, four years for this legal team working to hold these defendants accountable. And certainly we are so proud to do that work and it has certainly been challenging work at times.

Jonathan Katz:

It's quite a legal team. So you've got Karen Dunn, but I guess the headliner is probably Roberta Kaplan most famous for arguing in front of the Supreme court in United States v. Windsor, the case that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. Is that right?

Amy Spitalnick:

We have an incredible legal team. Our two lead councils, as you said, are Karen Dunn and Robbie Kaplan. We have so many other incredible attorneys from Kaplan Hecker Fink, Paul Weiss, Cooley Woods Rogers, folks like Michael Bloch and Jessica Phillips and Allen Levine and others who you will all meet over the course of this trial because they will be the ones examining witnesses, crossing defendants.

Amy Spitalnick:

And I think it's really worth shouting out the attorneys, some of whom's names are well known and many of whom you might not necessarily get to know over the course of this trial, but their work has just been tireless and invaluable here. And the defendants certainly haven't made it easy, but this team led by Robbie and Karen and others has really just been as incredible as we could have hoped.

Jonathan Katz:

And they're all working pro bono?

Amy Spitalnick:

Yeah. So we have this legal work being done pro bono by the various firms involved. Of course, this case involves significant other expenses, some of them unique to suing Nazis. I think this idea of taking neo-Nazis to court is an interesting and a compelling one, partially because of how challenging it can be. And one of the reasons it's so challenging is because of unique dynamics like security, which is by far our biggest expense, or for example, scraping evidence off of these defendant's phones and computers, social media accounts, emails. And that evidence you're starting to see in court right now, but over the course of the last few years, we've collected terabytes of this evidence, 5.3 terabytes, which is 5.3 million megabytes, and all of that comes with a significant price tag. And so a case like this is crucial, but it is also quite resource intensive, which is frankly, why IFA has had to play such a central role.

Jonathan Katz:

So tell me about the case. What's the logic behind the case? What are you trying to accomplish and what laws are you using to get there?

Amy Spitalnick:

So the case is a simple one in that it's really about holding accountable the core individuals in groups responsible for orchestrating the violence four years ago. And what the evidence makes crystal clear is that what happened wasn't an accident. It wasn't a clash between different sides, but rather it was planned meticulously in advance, in social media chats, text messages, in-person conversations and meetings, and so many other ways.

Amy Spitalnick:

And how this was planned is truly horrifying when you look at that evidence, if you look at these Discord chats, for example, where a number of the defendants and their co-conspirators discussed every detail from what to wear, what to bring for lunch, how do you best sew a swastika on a flag, will mayonnaise spoil in the sun, sort of the mundane and banal. When Hannah Arendt talked about the banality of evil, this is certainly what she meant.

Amy Spitalnick:

And they, of course also talked about the vile and the violent, how they planned to, quote, "crack Commie skulls," use free speech tools as weapons, and even whether they could hit protestors with cars and claim self defense. And there were these horrific memes in the Discord chats of for example, a protestor digester, a John Deere tractor that they intended to illustrate hitting protestors with cars precisely as happened just a month later.

Amy Spitalnick:

And it didn't stop there. In court this week, our lawyers for example, talked about text messages between the defendants. People like Cantwell, Chris Cantwell, who talked about how he is willing to risk a lot, including violence and incarceration for this cause and he just wants to make sure it's worth it. And Spencer says, "It is worth it, at least for me." Or another tax message in which Kessler says to Spencer, "We're raising an army, my liege, for free speech, but also for the cracking of skulls, if it comes to it."

Amy Spitalnick:

And so this was happening very explicitly, very obviously, and very horrifically in these chats and other forums and conversations in the months leading up to Unite the Right. And so the fact that these defendants planned for violence as the evidence clearly shows, came to Charlottesville and engaged in that violence and then celebrated the violence very explicitly is the definition of what a racially motivated violent conspiracy is. And we have laws that are meant to protect against that, specifically something called the KU Klux Klan Act of 1871, which is a central statute in our lawsuit.

Jonathan Katz:

It seems like mayonnaise spoiling in the sun seems like a metaphor for the entire event. One of the things that I've been wondering sitting in the courthouse for the last couple days is the strictures of a jury trial in US Federal Court. There's this necessity of formal bothsidesism, that there has to be equivalency between the defendants and the plaintiffs both get equal time, they get equal deference, they're assumed to both be accorded the same level of deference.

Jonathan Katz:

And then ultimately the juror who end up on the panel they kind of have to come in, it seemed like the only jurors who were eligible to serve and not get struck for cause by Judge Moon were people who live in this incredible state of grace in which they've never thought about whether Nazis are bad or not. Does that put a higher degree of difficulty on the plaintiff's legal team? Or how are you guys navigating that in this case?

Amy Spitalnick:

Look, I think what's true now and what has always been true is that when a jury hears this case, they will see the same thing that the facts illustrate, which is that this again was not an accident, but planned meticulously in advance. And this case has always been about simply telling the story of what happened. And I think just laying out that story from start to finish, hearing from our plaintiffs, hearing from expert witnesses and fact witnesses, hearing from the defendants themselves in their own words, which in some ways may better illustrate this than anything is going to be compelling to a jury and to any human being who is offended at the thought of violent extremism and who believes that this country should be governed by a rule of law and by accountability and justice. And so I think that has always been true in this case. It's certainly still true as we head into arguments and testimony at this trial. And so we are feeling that this case is as strong as it ever was and certainly the evidence backs that up.

Amy Spitalnick:

And I'm just really eager for this jury to hear directly from our plaintiffs who are going into this, willing to relive their trauma, literally sit in the courthouse with the very people who orchestrated the violence against them, in some cases be crossed by the very people who helped orchestrate the violence against them. And they're willing to relive that trauma to seek the accountability and justice that's been lacking. And so I think when the jury hears that, when the world hears that through this trial, it will be shocking and horrific and compelling.

Jonathan Katz:

It's definitely going to be a big test of that. I mean, if there's anything that we've learned as Americans over the last, what's it been now, five years, is that certain attitudes that we took for granted as being either unacceptable in the public square or intolerable in the public square are actually tolerable to a larger number of people than I think we would've felt comfortable with. Although, it does seem that what happened at Unite the Right, it was very clearly a bridge too far for a lot of people, which is why to a certain extent the defendants in this case ended up not achieving their ultimate aims. I mean, it kind of ended up being a disaster for them.

Jonathan Katz:

You were talking about having the evidence presented. So opening statements were today, and man, I mean ... so you've got the two pro se defendants, Richard Spencer, and Chris Cantwell, the crying Nazi. And then you've got the lawyers, some of whom are themselves open antisemites, open racists, they've made no secret of that in interviews with media and things like that as this case has been grinding along. I know you probably can't talk about it, but when Chris Cantwell today in his first couple of seconds of his speech, or first minute of his speech cited Mein Kampf and then dropped the N word, it seems like they're doing your legal team's work for them to a certain extent.

Amy Spitalnick:

Well, look, I'll say for those of us who have been steeped in this case for four years now, nothing was surprising, right? We're talking about Chris Cantwell, one of the defendants in this case. This is a defendant who has quoted Hitler in filings before, who just a few weeks ago, put in a filing suggesting that the Holocaust or antisemitism should not be allowed to be mentioned at trial, of course, a trial about a white supremacist attack that involved virulent antisemitism and comments like, "Next stop, Charlottesville, final stop Auschwitz." And in this filing, he said things like, "Holocaust trademark," to suggest that the Holocaust of course couldn't have possibly happened and is a fabricated concept.

Amy Spitalnick:

And so I think for many who know these defendants well, and who have been following this case and the broader extremism that these defendants are involved with, it probably wasn't surprising to anyone. I think perhaps today helped open people's eyes, not just to the extremism and the violence at the core of how this movement operates, but also I think of course, what happened in Charlottesville, the story that people think they know, how much deeper and darker it goes in terms of just how, well, not just how well planned it was, but the hate and the violence that fueled it. And that was certainly made clear today in court.

Jonathan Katz:

One of the things that really stood out to me was just how impressed with themselves the defendants are, particularly Cantwell. He kept playing both sides of this fence. He kept either saying shocking things, saying extremely racist and bigoted things, but then claiming that he's also an entertainer and he's just joking. It obviously reminded me of Jean-Paul Sartre's famous paragraph in his book on antisemitism about how antisemites, that they know their remarks are frivolous and that they're just amusing themselves because it's their adversary who's obliged to use words responsibly.

Jonathan Katz:

And I know that in the opening that your lawyers were giving today, they were talking about how the defendants would try to wrap the horrible things that they said that came out in the Discord chat in this bubble wrap of, oh, we were just joking, we said LOL at the end of a sentence so obviously we didn't mean it. That must make your guys' job harder, right? How do you deal with something that people can just say, oh you just don't have a sense of humor, we're just saying these things for shock value, you just don't speak the language?

Amy Spitalnick:

How you deal with it is you have experts like Pete Simi and Kathy Blee who wrote a brilliant expert report, and Pete is going to testify in this case. You speak to that, as was mentioned in the opening argument today. We know that this is a core strategy of how white supremacists operate. They say that they were simply joking when they post memes about hitting protestors with cars, and then hit protestors with cars. They try to claim that those memes were just jokes even if of course the reality of the situation tells you otherwise. And so having an expert lay out how this is a deliberate tactic, how there's that front stage, backstage rhetoric that we see, where what they're showing to the world is this, not even contrite, but just sort of moderate, polished persona that couldn't possibly commit the violence they're being accused of.

Amy Spitalnick:

And then when you pull back the curtains and you look at their private Discord chats, private text messages, private conversations, as the evidence in this case shows, the goal of course is always violence. And so just because they're saying publicly that those memes and comments were simply jokes doesn't mean that there isn't clear evidence privately that we now have in this case that makes crystal clear it was not a joke, but rather planned meticulously in advance as is just so clear here.

Amy Spitalnick:

And so I think that it's very well worth reading Pete and Kathy's expert report, which is available on IFA's website on integrityfirstamerica.org. I think it goes into this in a level of detail that I think will be shocking to most people because it is true, of course, not just of what happened in Charlottesville, but of so many other acts of extremism and white supremacist violence in recent years.

Jonathan Katz:

It was one of the main tools that Donald Trump had that if he said something very shocking, then he could just be, oh, I was just kidding, they were just mean tweets, I was just saying this stuff for effect. But then at the same time, people can be like, but also he means it, he really does think Mexicans are rapists and that's why I'm voting for him.

Amy Spitalnick:

Right. Well, and I think frankly that speaks to how, for example, this case has now become a model to hold accountable some of those responsible for January 6th. And we've seen lawsuits come out of January 6th that use the same KKK Act, a different section, but the same statute and some of those lawsuits are against Trump and other leaders of that horrific day.

Amy Spitalnick:

And so I think, again, the point here is that conspiring for violence, planning violence, that words in pursuit of violence are not protected speech. And there's this sort of false equivalency, or just total misunderstanding, or in some cases active, I would say disinformation out there suggesting that any words whatsoever are somehow protected. But when words are used to plan violence, and then you go and do that violence, and then of course you celebrate that violence, it's not protected just as if you and I were going to talk about here, robbing a bank and then we went out and robbed a bank, that wouldn't be protected.

Amy Spitalnick:

And I think it's really important to make that clear. This case has already made that clear in many ways with the judge saying, for example, in his opinion, rejecting defendant's motions to dismiss, that the First Amendment does not protect violence. And I think certainly that will be made clear over the course of this trial.

Jonathan Katz:

One of the things that's flooring is the specifics of the bigotry that have been on display in the court. And so a lot of the focus, especially in Charlottesville has rightly been on anti-Black racism, to a certain extent a lot of the focus on Unite the Right, especially the press coverage of it was about the Confederate statues, the Lee statue in particular. But it's really been amazing how much the focus in the courtroom in terms of what the defendants are actually saying is antisemitism, the invocation of Jews and denigrating the lawyers on the plaintiff side for being Jews and just like old school German National Socialism, just like Lebensraum, blood and soil, like the particular interest in war. I don't know what more to say about that, but it seems really striking to me that the particular brand of bigotry that seems to be the mode in this conspiracy is just so focused on Jews and this kind of old school antisemitism.

Amy Spitalnick:

Yeah, and that's very deliberate. And I think it's speak to not just the motivation behind Unite the Right, but really the broader cycle of white supremacist violence. And you're absolutely right, that all of these attacks have targeted a variety of communities, of course, the Black community, Latinx, refugee, immigrant, Sikh, Muslim different communities across the board who are targets of these white supremacists. But these acts of extremism in recent years from Charlottesville to Pittsburgh, which we just marked the three year anniversary of, to Poway, to El Paso and Christchurch and even January 6th in many ways are motivated by this idea of The Great Replacement, that somehow there is a conspiracy in which some shadowy force, which in many cases is explicitly the Jews, is conspiring to orchestrate a replacement of the white race.

Amy Spitalnick:

And that's what they mean when they say Jews will not replace us. That's what is implied by suggesting that the country is being stolen and immigrants and refugees are coming in to steal the election or otherwise. And it's certainly the same conspiracy theory that has fueled so many attacks on different communities, not just the Pittsburgh attack, which targeted a synagogue because they worked with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society supporting refugees, or the Christchurch attack, which targeted Muslim communities, or the Poway attack in California, which targeted a Chabad, or the El Paso attack, which specifically targeted a predominantly Latinx community, and so on and so forth.

Amy Spitalnick:

And so understanding how antisemitism really is at the core of white supremacy is one of the animating factors. And Eric Ward of the Western States Center explains this better than anyone I know in his fantastic essay, Skin in the Game, which I definitely recommend. And understanding how antisemitism really is the animating force behind white supremacy is a little easier when you sadly look at the evidence in this case, when you look at the fact that defendants Elliot Klein, who literally was an exterminator in his day job, talked about wanting to exterminate the Jews, or how the defendants talked about, quote, "wanting to gas the Kikes."

Amy Spitalnick:

And it is, as you said, direct language that comes right from Nazi Germany. It should be horrifying to all of us, but I think it's important to understand because it illustrates how you can't take on antisemitism without taking on white supremacy. And you can't take on white supremacy in any other form of hate that it motivates without taking on the antisemitism at its core. And certainly this case, I think is one of the most perfect examples of how that works.

Amy Spitalnick:

And I'll just say also on a personal note, I'm a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, certainly this is personal for me and for many on this team because of those sorts of family connections. And the fact that this hate, which in some cases verbatim is the same sort of hate that took the lives of many of my family members and obviously millions of others is now so emboldened, so empowered that we can see it fuel something like Unite the Right, and I will also say become increasingly normalized in mainstream with pundits like Tucker Carlson talking about it on primetime news or elected officials talking about it in their campaign emails. And so we need to have clear eyes about this. We need to understand what this conspiracy is, how it's motivated so much hate that has claimed so many lives and the danger of it becoming an increasingly normal part of our discourse.

Jonathan Katz:

Yeah. I mean, I'm Jewish, my great-grandparents fled the pogroms. My direct family was already in the States before the Holocaust, but all of my family had a lot of family that they lost in the Holocaust specifically. And then also of course people who were killed by the Russians and other waves of antisemitism in history. That's one of the reasons why just for me personally, I can see you feel the same and a lot of other people who are in the courtroom as well. It's just so weighty to just hear just this casual genocidal antisemitism.

Jonathan Katz:

And one of the things about Unite the Right, was that to a certain extent, it discredited some of the more overt, like I'm in the National Socialist Movement, I'm carrying a swastika type of street violence. But as you said, there's the Tucker Carlson version where instead of just saying the Jew, they say George Soros. And we even saw it just in the last 24, 48 hours in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, the Republican candidate for governor, that election is happening on Tuesday, November 2nd, and he talked about George Soros. And I don't remember if it was in context of Great Replacement theory of bringing in migrants, or just bankrolling his opponent, or whatever nefarious thing he was accusing him of. But there are still ways that it's being digested and disseminated on the right.

Amy Spitalnick:

Absolutely. And I don't think it can be partisan to call that out. I think there's an effort to make it seem like calling this out, calling out the normalization of it on the right is somehow partisan. And the fact that it is being labeled as partisan by some just further illustrates how normal the extremism is becoming and it can't.

Jonathan Katz:

Yeah. So you were talking about some of the larger hopes for this case, what would success look like? Would it just be the jury finding for the plaintiffs? Does it require a massive punitive number levied against the defendants to cripple them? Does it have to survive appeal? At what point will you be able to look back and say, we did what we were trying to do in this particular case?

Amy Spitalnick:

Well, I'll start by saying, in some ways it's already been successful and that some of the defendants have made clear that this case has had major financial and operational impacts on them. Richard Spencer has used the phrase, quote, "financially crippling," to describe this case. Defendants have talked about how this has undermined their ability to operate, prevented them from opening a new building, deterred them from participating in certain other events that would potentially also become violent. And so seeing the impacts that this has had already is important because it illustrates that accountability matters, even if the wheels of justice grind slowly. It's been four years since we first filed this case. Certainly there have been very real impacts along the way and that's powerful and I think a deterrent to some, in many ways.

Amy Spitalnick:

But at the end of the day, obviously we're in the midst of trial and it's about making the case to a jury and hoping to win accountability and justice in the courtroom. And so first and foremost, that's what this is about, accountability for those responsible for the violence and justice for our plaintiffs and for the community of Charlottesville who have seen such little accountability over the last few years.

Amy Spitalnick:

And what that means is that a jury has the potential, not just to find in favor of our plaintiffs, but to effectively award them large financial damages that can bankrupt, disrupt and dismantle the groups and the leaders responsible. And that doesn't mean that our plaintiffs are necessarily going to get millions of dollars instantaneously, but rather by being able to collect on these judgements for the rest of the defendant's lives, we can have major impacts on their ability to operate, deter others who are looking on and understanding the consequences for this sort of violence and I think send a clear message that if you do participate in something like this, if you're part of this violence, if you plan for violence, if you engage in racially motivated violence, there will of course be consequences. And so that's crucial in and of itself.

Amy Spitalnick:

And I think there's something a little bit more intangible, but equally important here, which is the power of a trial like this, waking the country up to the crisis of extremism that we're facing, making sure people understand that what they think happened in Charlottesville is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how well planned these events are, how fueled by racism and antisemitism and hate these attacks are, and that we have the power to do something about it. It requires sometimes being creative and being resilient, given how challenging and hard and long it can be to seek that accountability. And certainly I think our plaintiffs are so incredibly brave for choosing to do this despite the difficulties and the risks. But I think having that message seen, not just by this community in Charlottesville, but by the country and by the world to understand, it's very powerful.

Jonathan Katz:

So many of the excuses that were made after Unite the Right, we heard them during jury selection, we heard them today in court during the opening statements from the defendants, that it was both sides, right? It was that there were very fine people on both sides as Donald Trump said, the comment that he had made two or three days before that he was then trying to clean up by saying, unsuccessfully, that there was violence on many sides and that there was just this equivalency between the counter protestors, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and the Nazis. How are you addressing that? Did that influence the choice of plaintiffs that you are representing in this case? How do you hope to navigate that set of assumptions that just has become so mainstream in America's understanding of what happened in Charlottesville?

Amy Spitalnick:

Well, I think in many ways, this case is the answer to that, right? It's obviously not a silver bullet. We have much work to do in this country when it comes to that sort of bothsidesism. But what this case clearly illustrates is that there are not fine people on both sides, there are not two equal sides to the story. On one side are Charlottesville community members, UVA students who were peacefully counter protesting at the Thomas Jefferson statue, or walking up the street celebrating what they thought was the end of a white supremacist rally in their town and then were of course hit by that car. And these are regular people who had come out to speak out against hate in their communities, to peacefully stand up.

Amy Spitalnick:

And on the other side, are the people who planned that violence, who engaged in that violence and then celebrated that violence, people who very clearly talked about how what happened, the car attack, for example, and the injuries that our plaintiff's and others sustained, they saw it as, quote, "a huge moral victory," or quote, "payback time for Heather Heyer." And so you can't look at that, you can't look at that evidence, you can't look at the facts of this and somehow believe that there are indeed equivalencies between those sides or fine people on both sides. And I think this case in many ways says if you think that, these facts will tell you otherwise.

Jonathan Katz:

One thing that's really notable is how little the statues have been mentioned. I mean again, in this popular, both sides understanding that a lot of people have of what is just known outside of Charlottesville as Charlottesville is that you had these people who were pro statue protestors, and you had anti-statue protestors and then there were some like extremists on both sides who came in. But it really comes out in both of the plaintiff's and the defendant's opening statements today, how ancillary a role at best the Lee statue and the Jackson statue played in what happened in August 2017.

Amy Spitalnick:

Well, I think that speaks to how this was never really about the statues per se. The statues were used as the guise or the hook for these white supremacists to descend on Charlottesville. And I think it's worth noting that nearly all of the defendants are from well outside Charlottesville, in most cases well outside Virginia. There's one local defendant, Jason Kessler, but the rest come from all over the country. And so these statues and the removal of them-

Jonathan Katz:

Although Richard Spencer is a UVA alum.

Amy Spitalnick:

That is true. But the vast majority of these defendants and many of the people who participated came from well outside the area. And it's because these statues were used as a guise or a hook to create what happened, to create an opportunity for the sort of hate and violence that unfolded. And so this case is not about the statues and what happened in many ways is not about the statues beyond the fact that they were the guise or the hook that was used to help create Unite the Right.

Jonathan Katz:

The last thing I would ask you about is what you think the implications are for things like the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse is going on right now in Kenosha? You've got the trials for January 6th are starting to plod through, although if they go at the pace that Sines v. Kessler did, it'll be years before we actually see them in court.

Amy Spitalnick:

Yeah. Some of those are criminal, many of those are criminal, but of course, yes, there are civil suits, as I mentioned, and my hope is that they have a faster process than we did thanks to COVID and the defendant's discovery misconduct.

Jonathan Katz:

But do you think that there are precedents that could get set here even for criminal cases, that could help make precedent for federal court for these cases going forward?

Amy Spitalnick:

Look, I think this case already has emerged as a model in certain ways, and certainly if, and when our plaintiffs win, it can truly be an example of how you use the justice system, how you use civil lawsuits to hold these extremists accountable. We're certainly not the first people in history to bring a civil case like this, and to use civil litigation as a tool for justice and accountability against extremists. But I think that this case is by far the broadest, most expansive, frankly innovative use of some of this sort of civil litigation, because it goes after the full conspiracy, it goes after the 24 individuals and groups who orchestrated the violence, as opposed to just a handful of individual groups.

Amy Spitalnick:

And so by taking on that conspiracy, taking on really the core leadership that orchestrated Unite the Right and unsurprisingly have deep connections to the broader movement and the broader cycle of extremism, that can absolutely be not just an example for others, but hopefully a line in the sand that if you do this sort of thing, there will be consequences. And this is how you ensure there are those consequences.

Jonathan Katz:

Well, Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First America, thank you for joining me on The Racket.

Amy Spitalnick:

Thanks so much for having me.

Jonathan Katz:

That was Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America. You can find out more about her organization at integrityfirstforamerica.org. They've got a lot of updates about the trial, court documents and information about the defendants and the plaintiffs there.

Jonathan Katz:

Next up, we're going to talk with Dr. Heidi Beirich, an expert on right wing extremism to get more background on who the players in this trial are and what's at stake. Heidi is also the chief strategy officer at the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. Welcome Heidi. Now you were with the Southern Poverty Law Center for many years. Can you tell us more about your work there?

Heidi Beirich:

I ran the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project for about 10 years, which is the part of the SPLC that monitors hate groups and extremists, and creates the hate map that people are very familiar with. I'd been there 20 years before I left in 2019 and left to co-found the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, which looks at the same issues, but from a transnational frame.

Jonathan Katz:

Talk to us about who some of the specific players are, Vanguard America, Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Workers Party. Who are these people who are being sued in Charlottesville?

Heidi Beirich:

Sure. So Sines v. Kessler is taking on the groups that were in 2017 the most important neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in the United States. The Traditionalist Workers Party, for example, which has fallen apart since the case was filed, was run by a guy named Matt Heimbach, who had been involved in dozens, it seemed like, of neo-Nazi groups, including the National Socialist Movement, and was one of the most prominent voices in white supremacy at the time. Also, Jason Kessler, who's the name in Sines v. Kessler, and the organizer of Unite the Right, the primary organizer, was a central figure in neo-Nazi and white supremacist circles. He came up with the idea for Unite the Right, and brought all his buddies along.

Heidi Beirich:

Other prominent organizations and individuals that were in Charlottesville for Unite the Right were for example, Richard Spencer. Many of us are reminded of him having basically Sieg Heil Trump's win back in 2016 in a video that went viral, in an office in Washington, DC. He ran something called the National Policy Institute. Was a very, very well known figure, I think only second to maybe David Duke in many Americans' minds in terms of white supremacy. He's also one of the people who's being sued in this case. And there are others, Identity Evropa. It's a huge case. League of the South, a neo-Confederate group that wants to basically throw all people of color out of the South and reestablished the Confederacy. I mean, it was quite a cask of white supremacist characters that showed up in Charlottesville in 2017.

Jonathan Katz:

The National Socialist Movement and a couple chapters of the actual KU Klux Klan. Is that right?

Heidi Beirich:

That is right. And also there were members of militias at the event from the Three Percenter militia, which is a outfit that you could find all over the country. So it wasn't just all white supremacists, there were also heavily armed, angry anti-government types that were in the mix that day as well.

Jonathan Katz:

But they're not involved in this lawsuit.

Heidi Beirich:

They are not involved in this lawsuit. Some militia members have actually been sued by folks at Georgetown University, and there was an injunction eventually agreed to in that case to keep armed militia members out of Charlottesville, but that's a separate situation from what we have here.

Jonathan Katz:

So what's the relationship between these guys? I mean, just in the last 48, 72 hours, there's been some sniping back and forth between Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer. There was this weird moment in the courtroom on Tuesday when Richard Spencer and Christopher Cantwell, the infamous crying Nazi wanted to keep somebody on the jury who said that Richard Spencer was evil. And one of the lawyers for some of the others, just called them out and was just, why am I stuck on this side with these incompetent people. And then Jason Kessler was mocking Richard Spencer on Twitter. Are these new divisions or were they surfing these divisions even at the time, that they were trying to, as they said, Unite the Right.

Heidi Beirich:

Yeah. Well look, the American white supremacist movement is notorious for its infighting and thank God, because it makes them less effective. But even coming together for Unite the Right, there was a lot of pushing and shoving among these various folks about who was the quote-unquote, "leader," or the person in charge of Unite the Rights. So the sniping started pretty early in particular between Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler. However, they still were able to organize enough to show up on that weekend in August 2017 and do these terrible things in Charlottesville.

Heidi Beirich:

That said, by the following week, when a lot of these groups started to see their material de-platform from places like Facebook and started to lose their PayPal accounts, the infighting revved up again. There was quite a lot of discussion in white supremacist circles after Unite the Right, if it had been just a wholesale disaster for the white supremacist movement, because they lost their place to push their propaganda out and they lost access to financial resources.

Heidi Beirich:

And by the time Sines v. Kessler was filed by IFA, the fallout was even worse, because at that point, everybody turned on each other. Each of these people who were being sued started to blame others for what had happened over the weekend at Unite the Right. And people who weren't named in the IFA lawsuit abandoned the groups who were for fear of being drawn into the case in some way. So at the end of the day, Unite the Right was a bit of a disaster for the groups who showed up.

Jonathan Katz:

In your estimation, why didn't they achieve ... What were they trying to achieve and why didn't they achieve it, I guess would be the way to ask?

Heidi Beirich:

Well, I would say there's two levels to this. One is what happened to the groups and individuals who actually showed up in Charlottesville in the wake of the violence of that weekend. And the fact that they lost access to all the social media, that was really, really devastating for those organizations. But at the same time, the weekend's events were a potent reminder of the power of white supremacy in this country.

Heidi Beirich:

And even though a lot of the particular people who are being sued have been either already crushed through the discovery process or sanctions from the court, and we'll see what happens with the case, but I have a feeling it's not going to go well for the white supremacists, even so, white supremacy in this country became larger and other organizations filled those gaps. I'm thinking about groups like the Proud Boys, for example, which became real prominent a year later and are also facing some civil suits that hopefully will impact them. But white supremacy didn't go away.

Heidi Beirich:

So in a way, the writ large movement of white supremacy has only grown in the years since Charlottesville. That's why this case is actually so important to remind all of us about how dangerous it is, and also to get some justice for the victims. And really I think of Charlottesville and then January 6th and the insurrection as book-ending the Trump era. We began the Trump era with a horrible racist rally, and we ended it with an attempt to overthrow our democracy.

Jonathan Katz:

Was it just that the optics were so bad? Was it the death of Heather Heyer and James Alex Fields' car attack on the counter protestors and the people just walking down the Charlottesville Mall? What made it turn out so bad for the defendants in this particular case, and then create this space that the Proud Boys and other groups were able to fill?

Heidi Beirich:

Yeah, well, I mean, it was definitely the violence, right? The violence was a shock to all of us who paid attention to what happened that weekend. I also think the scary scenes of the first night of these young white men with their torches rallying and saying the Jews will not replace us was terrifying to people as well it should have been. And those images did not paint a movement that wanted to go more mainstream exactly in the light they wanted. So there was actually a debate among white supremacists after Charlottesville over, quote-unquote, "optics." In other words, were the optics that they presented the wrong ones to try to recruit more people into their movement?

Heidi Beirich:

But I really do think the two things that most affected the movement, the particular players at Charlottesville, was the loss of those PayPal accounts and the case in Sines v. Kessler, both of which made it impractical for them to continue to do their work because they didn't have the resources, they didn't have the audience, and they were facing a legal juggernaut in the wake of the case.

Jonathan Katz:

When you talk about optics, the quote that immediately pops into my mind was Robert Bowers at the Tree of Life massacre at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, when he said, "Screw your optics, I'm going in." And that was just a couple years later, but it seems like some people were just murderous enough to not care about how it looked. But then there were other groups like the Proud Boys, which Jason Kessler was briefly a part of, he was beaten into with the name five serials beat down. But they felt that they could put a more marketable spin on their white supremacy than the groups that were associated with Unite the Right. Is that what you think?

Heidi Beirich:

Yeah, that is definitely true. So the Proud Boys was founded by a guy named Gavin McInnes, who was a legitimate media personality for a while.

Jonathan Katz:

Co-founder of Vice, right?

Heidi Beirich:

Exactly. A Canadian co-founder of Vice. And they put themselves in these little Perry polo shirts and khakis, and tried to look as though they were just like any other kind of man on the street, very mainstream. In the early days, they tried to play games about how they weren't racist, that they had members who were of different races, which was true. But over time, they too descended into so much street violence, especially out on the West Coast that at this point they don't look much different than the kinds of folks that showed up in Charlottesville for Unite the Right. So yes, there was this attempt to appear more mainstream and have optics that don't look like what we saw in Charlottesville.

Heidi Beirich:

I should say, though you brought up Robert Bowers, which is a very good point because what was chanted that night at the torch rally, Jews will not replace us, that idea, which is a version of what's called The Great Replacement theory, this idea that there's some plot by Jews to replace white people in their home countries with people of color, that idea not only inspired Bowers in the Tree of Life shooting, but also the El Paso Walmart attack. So Charlottesville reinforced this horrific ideology that led to these major domestic terrorism attacks, not just in the US, but in places like Christchurch, New Zealand. So this is all the fallout of what we saw that weekend in August 2017.

Jonathan Katz:

And it seems like in terms of the American public writ large, the mainstream of the Republican party, there's a different appetite for violence that is done explicitly in the name of we are Nazis, we are trying to eradicate the Jews and violence by somebody like Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who was armed, crossed state lines, but he went under the pretense of enforcing property rights. And it seems like mainstream Republicans see his targets as being more legitimate. Have you picked up on the connection that I'm positing here or is it completely off?

Heidi Beirich:

No, no, no, I get what you're saying. When I think of the Republican Party, what I really think about is the fact that it has become so incredibly radicalized into racial ideas over the last ... basically since Trump came down that escalator and started talking about Mexicans as rapists. And where we sit today, we have members of white supremacist groups, like the Proud Boys involved in GOP activity in Nevada. We're seeing local attacks by militias who are involved with the GOP on school boards. And we've got numbers now in the Republican Party that are a really high percentage that believe in the QAnon, crazy conspiracy theory, or believe in The Great Replacement theory, or have anti-immigrant views, or believe that the November 2020 election was completely fraudulent. And this began in a way with the bomb going off in Charlottesville, this shift.

Jonathan Katz:

All these later groups, the ones who were behind or most involved in January 6th, they're more on the Proud Boys, Kyle Rittenhouse side of the ledger, where it's like the election is illegitimate. The subtext of that is because of people of color in cities, Black people in Philadelphia and Atlanta and Detroit who voted and shouldn't have been allowed to, or that their votes are inherently more suspect than the votes of white people. You have the QAnon guys who, I mean, that's essentially just a repackaging of medieval European blood libel against Jews, but it has enough plausible deniability in it that a sitting member of Congress can essentially endorse them even more closely than Steve King endorsed white nationalists, and not really have to suffer major political consequences for it.

Heidi Beirich:

Yeah, that's where we've ended up, right? Marjorie Taylor Greene is a QAnon adherent, our former president, Trump, I think retweeted QAnon material more than a hundred times, and there's no price to be paid anymore for doing things that are just unimaginable under other Republican administrations or the GOP would not tolerate. I always think about the fact that when George Allen ran for Senate it on the GOP ticket, I think in 2006, and he used a disparaging word for Black people, and it was filmed and he was gone from the race in a week. That world doesn't exist anymore, period.

Jonathan Katz:

It got some pushback. He definitely had his defenders in the mainstream, but those defenders have been drowned out. These are not just notional ties. I mean, there are actual material connections between the defendants in Sines v. Kessler in the case in Charlottesville, and people on January 6th, and also the shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand. There're actual, tangible connections between these people. Is that correct?

Heidi Beirich:

Yeah. Yeah. And it's not just ideological, although they do share a lot of beliefs. There are tangible connections between these individuals in these groups. As you pointed out, Kessler was a Proud Boy. They had a wing called the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, I think to the Proud Boys that was there at Charlottesville and those people remained in the Proud Boys group going forward. The Three Percenters, the individuals in the Three Percenter militia who showed up at Charlottesville and were part of the rally. There were Three Percenters who have been charged with conspiracy now on January 6th. The ideas that they were spouting that night at the torch rally are exactly the ideas that the shooter in Christchurch imbibed. And he was connected to the network Generation Identity, one part of which was a group called Identity Evropa that was in Charlottesville in 2017. So these are real, tangible connections among the folks that were there at Charlottesville and people, frankly, around the world who have been involved in all kinds of different types of violence.

Jonathan Katz:

And The Great Replacement has a platform almost every night on Fox News on Tucker Carlson's show.

Heidi Beirich:

Yeah. I mean, this is perhaps more horrifying in a way than anything, excepting the violence that we've seen. Tucker Carlson is sitting there talking to millions of viewers on a regular basis in which he's spouting a white supremacist theory that is antisemitic and has created multiple violent mass death situations. And apparently that's not a problem for Fox News. I mean, it is completely outrageous.

Heidi Beirich:

And he's not the only prominent Republican who's pushing these ideas, so has Newt Gingrich, for example. And I think, as I already said earlier, there's a percentage, a large percentage of Republicans who believe The Great Replacement is really happening. I'm sure Tucker has helped them along in that thinking. But I mean, how is it that we've gotten to a place where white supremacy is a topic of discussion, not on David Duke's podcast, that five people listen to, but on Fox News and it's one of its most watched shows.

Jonathan Katz:

Thinking of Tucker Carlson, he certainly has his more respectable seeming defenders who defend him on grounds of free speech, of a free press from a civil libertarian bend. Jason Kessler referenced cancel culture in his own defense on social media during this first week of the trial in Charlottesville and this has been a talking point among the defendants as well. How do you navigate that? I mean, there's a lot of conversation about freedom of speech and yes, perhaps some of these are horrendous, odious things to say, but why don't we just let them speak and let them raise money and defeat them in the marketplace of ideas. What do you say to people who say that?

Heidi Beirich:

Well, what I say is that there is a misunderstanding of what free speech means, and it keeps getting dragged into this particular context. Free speech is about the government not restricting your speech. Free speech is not about what Facebook decides to do on their platform or PayPal decides to do with their accounts. Those are private businesses, they have a choice to decide what to have on there and not to have on there. And I think a spirit of free speech matters, but it's ultimately their call just like a restaurant where I live, doesn't have to let me in if I'm wearing a KKK robe and spouting racist statements. And so the line is there to be drawn by the companies that are involved. And also in the case of Tucker Carlson, it is Fox News's affirmative decision to allow him to say these things on their platform.

Heidi Beirich:

And what I really think is going on in the back of this is not really about freedom of speech, it's about freedom of reach. What they're complaining about is they don't have the audiences that they used to have for their horrible ideas. They are more than welcome to go down to the public park and say whatever they want, or put up a website and spout their ideas, or create a podcast if they can find a place to host it, but they don't have any right to any of those things. So I just think that we have a wrong notion all the time about this issue.

Heidi Beirich:

Now that said, I do believe there should be a spirit of freedom of speech, but there are lines that are crossed that harm other people's ability to speak, potentially threaten violence, and the lines have to be drawn there. And the US is very different than anywhere else in the Western World. Most places don't allow hate speech and they try to weigh the benefits of freedom of speech with the harms that can come from the kind of speech that the people at Unite the Right rally engage in.

Jonathan Katz:

It seems like, thinking about Unite the Right specifically in 2017 and that as a metaphor for the larger debate, when you have armed white supremacists on the street, people who are literally calling for Jews and Black people to be gassed and murdered en masse and are working with people who are actually carrying out mass killings in real life, it's very hard to imagine what that marketplace of ideas could even look like.

Jonathan Katz:

People who consider themselves in the center have been critical of the fact that there were counter protestors, there were people on the left who came into the streets of Charlottesville on August 12th armed, but it seems to me and I'd be interested in getting your take on it that when you allow an expressly violent ideology that uses violence to secure its platform into the conversation, you're essentially guaranteeing that the only people who would be able to speak are people who also are willing to use violence to enter the conversation and generally speaking for most people, speech is essentially silenced. Do you think there's something there?

Heidi Beirich:

Well, first of all, the marketplace of ideas, I just think we have to put quite a few asterisks behind the quote-unquote, "ideas" of the people at Charlottesville, right? I mean, we're not going to debate the merits of white supremacy as possibly something that is relevant to a discussion.But yes, what happens is there's so much fear from the violent imagery, ideas of ethnic cleansing that are pushed by the kinds of people who showed up at Unite the Right that other people are simply going to get out of there, get away from that in fear. And so it does tend to draw, if there are going to be counter protests, pretty aggressive people who are willing to stand up to this.

Heidi Beirich:

Now I have to say, overall, what happened in Charlottesville was also just a horrific failure on the part of law enforcement. And that's not just me saying that. There was a postmortem done by the city, I think, or the state that showed that they just failed to grasp the serious nature of what was coming. And this wasn't the first ever white supremacist rally to occur where violence broke out between counter protestors and protestors, and many law enforcement agencies have learned lessons about how to keep them apart. What was different is nobody expected it to be that big.

Jonathan Katz:

But we saw on January 6th, a similar or at least a similarly serious failure of law enforcement to use one term. But in some cases it wasn't a failure, it was some cops wanted ... It seems that there's this slippery divide between respectable conservatism, respectable anti anti-racist centrism and the really hard, violent, extreme stuff. And sometimes it seems like you've got people with the power of the state who don't appreciate the threat, or they don't feel like it's threatening themselves personally and so they just let it happen.

Heidi Beirich:

Yeah. I think that you're making the right point. There was a certain amount of benign neglect, both at Charlottesville and at the Capitol on January 6th that somehow right wing protestors can't get out of hand or that they're not the real serious threat, it's Antifa, which of course is a narrative we're hearing from the right wing all the time now, that Antifa's the problem.

Heidi Beirich:

And then there's a deeper, deeper thing, and I say this as someone who teaches a class on extremists and law enforcement of bonafide members of extremist groups. We saw active duty cops get arrested for activities on January 6th, same with military veterans and so on. Groups like the Oath Keepers whose members are charged in a conspiracy for January 6th, they have quite a few law enforcement officials on their membership list. That's an even deeper and scarier problem that has, I think, been on full display, especially on January 6th.

Jonathan Katz:

White supremacy is as old as America, older, and some of the groups who are named as defendants in Sines v. Kessler are the KU Klux Klan, which going back to the original Klan and one of the laws that the plaintiff's attorneys are trying to implement was the law that basically disbanded the original Klan only to have the Klan reemerge as an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, antisemitic force in the 1920s.

Jonathan Katz:

But it seems that one of the things that was lost in the Trump era and that the hate groups that descended on Charlottesville in August 2017, that they were trying clumsily to figure out how to exploit is that there'd been a little bit of a re-erosion of the stigma of the shame of being a white supremacist in America, that there's a little bit of more space to cheat your way over and be like, well, I'm against affirmative action, I'm against critical race theory, and then I think that maybe white people should be easier to vote and then white people should be in charge of everything, and then a white ethno state.

Jonathan Katz:

It seems that part of what's happening here is that there were, I don't want to say bright lines because they were very hard to place, but there was a very clear sense that under Ronald Reagan that you really had to at least use a wink and a nod, if you were going to support neo-segregationist ideas. And now there are people in Congress and there are people, the major news platforms of the right from Fox News to Breitbart, all the way up to The Daily Stormer who are just constantly playing with how much can we get away with and they keep finding that they're able to get away with more and more.

Heidi Beirich:

I think Donald Trump just drove a Mack truck through any lines of civility we had about racial language and expressing racist ideas and so on. You used to be able to dog whistle, Republicans dog whistled on race. I mean, for God's sakes, Reagan began his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and he wasn't there to talk about the civil rights workers who were killed and you had the Willie Horton ad under the first Bush. But what Trump did is he just made racist statements, bald-faced all the time. He ran an ad blaming prominent Jewish officials for taking over the world. And the last ad he ran online in his 2016 campaign, he called Mexicans invaders, Muslims terrorists. I mean, everything that you could think of. He made fun of Black people. He said that, which is just a complete lie, that white farmers in South Africa were under attack by Black people there.

Heidi Beirich:

He ended whatever norms as shaky as they were that we had. And it's been absolutely tragic because it has completely mainstreamed ideas that just would not have seen the light of day. And lucky for Trump, he had social media to amplify it in ways that weren't possible say in the 1990s. So, I mean, he just took a wrecking ball to boundaries on racism and antisemitism and various forms of bigotry, anti-woman stuff, the bus. And I mean, it's just, I don't know how we get back to that kind of a norm place. And Republicans in particular, don't seem interested in trying to get rid of this stuff. They seem interested in proliferating it and allowing it to happen more and more. And I watch this like white washing on the part of the right, right now about January 6th and it is hard to believe. It is just absolutely hard to believe.

Jonathan Katz:

Which kind of brings us back to this case. I mean during jury selection a number of jurors, they were expressing versions of these kind of sanitized ideas, that Black Lives Matter and Antifa are terrorists, that it's the left that is trying to stoke a race war, that discrimination isn't a problem against Jews or Black people or Hispanics, but that the real problem is racism against white people. And they were getting very approving nods and comments from the white supremacists, both the ones who are representing themselves in the courtroom and on social media.

Jonathan Katz:

That said, if the plaintiffs are successful in this case, if they achieve their goal, do you think that this could help undo some of the damage, that it could either reinstall a kind of stigma against a certain kind of white supremacy and say this is too far and you shall not pass beyond this line? Could it help destroy these networks? Could it set a precedent for future cases that would try to do the same? How do you see this case possibly serving a role in this conversation that we're having?

Heidi Beirich:

I'm hoping that it serves a very important narrative shift role, as you're describing. In other words, it's not just about holding the defendants responsible financially for all the damage they did, all the people that they hurt, but also it's a big reminder about the dangers of white supremacy, that this isn't a joke, that this shouldn't be mainstream, that this should be taken seriously. There is a story here that America needs to hear and listen to, maybe it's more important to listen to about how dangerous these people are and how far our culture has gone in terms of accepting ideas that are frankly, just unacceptable.

Heidi Beirich:

And I'm obviously not involved in any of the trial strategy and whatnot, but when I was at the Southern Poverty Law Center, we'd sued hate groups, much narrower cases than this. This is a really ambitious, really important case because it takes on multiple organizations at once. But we would always talk about the fact that the story we told was of great importance. We wanted to educate the public on the dangers of say the Aryan Nations or The Daily Stormer, which is also a defendant in this case.

Heidi Beirich:

So I think what you're bringing up matters immensely. And I also hope that this case will be successful and then will also prompt more such cases to come to hold hate groups responsible for acts of their members and the violence and the mayhem that they create. So I think IFA's trial team is also going to be teaching the legal world about things that can be done to get accountability for these types of individuals and organizations.

Jonathan Katz:

How would you describe to somebody who is not involved in politics, who tries to avoid the news media, who sees themself as they'd be extremely offended to be likened to a Nazi or a member of the Klan, but how do you explain what the dangers are of the kind of extremist ideology that the more sanitized members of this group of defendants, all the way to say the Proud Boys or other neo-fascist groups, how would you describe to somebody like that, the dangers that these groups pose?

Heidi Beirich:

Yeah, well, I mean, I would talk about the violence, both the street violence and the kinds of attacks like at the Tree of Life synagogue. But I also probably would give an analogy to what happened in Germany. It's not a perfect analogy, but Germany before World War II, before the Holocaust was one of the wealthiest, most successful, in the arts, culture, universities, countries in the world and it descended into neo-Nazism and violence because people didn't pay attention and they didn't stand up. That was particularly true in Germany of people on the right, conservatives who thought that they could somehow corral the Nazi regime and Adolf Hitler for their own purposes and were soon to find out that that was absolutely not the case.

Heidi Beirich:

And I think we always have to stay on our toes because we have seen democracies descend into horrific things like genocide when under pressure from the kinds of movements that are being sued in Charlottesville right now. And we can never ever ignore this. And that's why this is so important, that's why the story about this is important, and that's why getting a measure of justice is important. And that's also why it's important that these groups be held to account for what they do and pay for what they do, because we've got to keep them out of violence, keep them as weak as is possible. And we all need to keep projecting these ideas over and over and over again.

Jonathan Katz:

Thank you, Heidi Beirich for speaking with me on The Racket, and all the best.

Heidi Beirich:

It was my pleasure.

Jonathan Katz:

You can find more from Heidi and the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism on Twitter at globalextremism, and on the web at globalextremism.org.

Jonathan Katz:

Sines v. Kessler, the trial is continuing, witnesses are starting to be placed on the stand. Plaintiffs are testifying about the horror that they experienced that day. It's some really harrowing stuff. Some very brave people, are the plaintiffs. They've been through a lot and they're still coming into court to face their attackers and try to get justice. So it's going to be a fascinating thing.

Jonathan Katz:

We're going to be talking about it at The Racket, both in audio and written form. You can read The Racket at theracket.news. You can also, if you came to us from the Substack, find the podcast elsewhere at anywhere that you get podcasts, Spotify, Downcast, iTunes. Wherever you listen to podcasts, you will find this. I want to thank our Racket podcast team, producer, Evan Roberts, researcher, Annie Malcolm, and help from the editor of The Racket, Sam Thielman. You'll find me on Twitter at KatzOnEarth. We're going to have more audio editions, more podcasts coming up very soon. I'm really excited about what we've got planned. Stay safe out there.