Charlottesville cites circuit court ruling in support of banning proposed ‘Unite the Right 2’ rally

July 11, 2018

A judge’s ruling letting a lawsuit proceed against Jason Kessler, the organizer of last summer’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, illustrates the risk of letting him hold another event on its first anniversary, attorneys for the city argued in a separate case Tuesday.

Lawyers representing the city in its efforts to keep Mr. Kessler from holding another rally in Charlottesville next month filed a notice in federal court Tuesday drawing attention to a decision delivered a day earlier concerning related litigation.

In a separate case being considered by the Charlottesville Circuit Court, Judge Richard E. Moore ruled Monday that the city can continue with a lawsuit against Mr. Kessler and Redneck Revolt, a group that participated in last summer’s rally, aimed at keeping them from bringing with weapons and shields like last year if and when they assemble in town on the event’s first anniversary next month.

Citing the circuit court’s ruling, attorneys for Charlottesville said Tuesday that the judge in that case raised concerns that support the city’s decision to deny Mr. Kessler’s permit for a proposed “Unite the Right 2.”

“Judge Moore ruled that the City had adequately alleged that ‘Kessler “knew or intended” that various techniques taught or demonstrated would be used in a civil disorder, and he facilitated the presence of such groups to instruct, demonstrate and carry out such techniques,’ and had ‘pleaded adequate facts to show that Mr. Kessler was engaged and involved in the solicitation, training and command of such paramilitary units,’” Charlottesville attorney Linda Odom wrote in the motion.

“Judge Moore’s ruling is relevant to the City’s position that it acted properly in taking the Plaintiff’s history into account in determining that his permit for a second ‘Unite the Right’ event should be denied on public safety grounds and because Plaintiff had not shown he could be a responsible organizer of the event, and its position that his request for an injunction requiring the City to issue him a permit should be denied.”

Mr. Kessler, 34, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

Billed as a demonstration held in support of a Confederate statue slated to be removed from a Charlottesville park, the initial “Unite the Right” rally descended into chaos after clashes erupted between counterprotesters and armed participants including neo-Nazis and white nationalists. A counterprotester, Heather Heyer, was ultimately killed in a suspected hate crime, and two Virginia state troopers died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the chaos, according to police.

Mr. Kessler requested permission in November to hold another rally in town on the event’s anniversary, but his permit was denied over safety concerns, prompting him to file suit in Charlottesville federal court in March. A hearing has been scheduled for later this month before Senior U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon to decide whether to grant either a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction effectively letting the rally take place next month.

Attorneys for Mr. Kessler previously said they are suing Charlottesville because his permit request was supposedly denied because of their client’s political beliefs. Maurice Jones, the Charlottesville city manager, said in a court filing last week that politics “had no bearing” on his decision to reject Mr. Kessler’s permit.

A separate request from Mr. Kessler to hold a “white civil rights” rally that same weekend outside the White House is currently pending before the National Park Service.