If you listen to self-identified national socialists, you would be lead to believe that they had no violent intentions in Charlottesville and that they only resorted to violence to defend themselves against the international socialists. However, material posted in chats for organizing the event indicate that those claims of self-defense are spurious at best:
Unicorn Riot has so far published roughly 1,000 screenshots of chats, and the recording, conducted through the app Discord, from a source. A march organizer says the documents he has seen appear to be authentic. Transcripts show participants openly planning violence while organizers instruct them to obey the law. Participants on one call debated when it would be permissible to use riot shields as weapons. “Some screaming little Latina bitch comes at you and knocks your teeth on your riot shield, that means you hit her, and you’re going to get in trouble for the weapons,” one participant says.
Timothy Litzenburg represents two women injured in the melee who last week sued 28 groups and individuals, including the alleged organizers of the Unite the Right march. He says the documents could be “the crux of the case,” because they show “a little flavor of how [organizers] totally intended on violence and mayhem.”
While Unicorn Riot cannot be called an impartial source (it’s a hardcore leftist media collective), it did provide screenshots from the organizer’s Discord server that have so far been undisputed. Moreover, it’s no surprise that a bunch of national socialists planned to perpetrate violence since national and international socialists have been killing each other for a long time now. But this information does lend itself to a more interesting topic: self-defense.
In Minnesota, one of the requirements for legally using deadly force in self-defense is that you must be a reluctant participant. That is to say, you must not have willfully entered yourself into the violent situation. I personally think that it’s a good principle.
So the question here is, can the national socialists claim self-defense in this situation? Obviously that question can only be answered on an individual by individual basis. However, the material released by Unicorn Riot shows that at least some of the individuals who went to Charlottesville did so seeking violence. They knowingly put themselves into a situation that was all but guaranteed to turn violent (violating the “Don’t go stupid places,” principle of self-defense) and specifically expressed a purpose to perform violence.
I know there will be some debate about whether or not one can claim self-defense if they knowingly went somewhere that they reasonably believed would turn violence, however, one thing is certain: prosecutors eat up material like this. And that is another important point. While situations that qualify as self-defense can be debated, what you post online can and will be used against you if you are ever in a situation where you claim self-defense. Protecting yourself doesn’t stop after the situation itself, it starts before that situation and ends after that situation. Before you get into a self-defense situation, you should take care of how you portray yourself because a prosecutor will use your character against you after the situation.