It’s a day those living in Charlottesville would rather not relive. That it left three people dead and countless injured, or that it was shut down before it was scheduled to begin last August 12 has not stopped Jason Kessler from planning a second Charlottesville rally—on the one-year anniversary of Unite the Right.
While many may wonder why the homegrown right-winger, who’s been denounced by several former conservative comrades, would bring that kind of hate back to Charlottesville, he explains in a November 29 post on his blog, Real News w/ Jason Kessler: “I simply will not allow these bastards to use the one year anniversary of the Charlottesville government violating a federal judge’s order and the U.S. Constitution, in conjunction with violent Antifa groups, to further demonize our activists.”
For citizens in Charlottesville still recovering from this summer’s violent invasion of neo-Nazis, the reaction was one of shock and dismay.
“Immediate repulsion,” says activist Don Gathers when he heard about Kessler’s anniversary plan. “People say they throw up in their own mouth. That’s what it was like.”
He wonders, “What kind of mentality does it take to have that kind of gall to say you’re going to do that again, especially on that same weekend?”
City spokesperson Miriam Dickler has confirmed that Kessler’s application, filed November 27, for what he calls a “rally against government civil rights abuse and failure to follow security plans for political dissidents,” is under review, and says the city has no further comment.
The organizer, currently awaiting trial for perjury in Albemarle County, says 2018 Unite the Right attendees oppose any changes to Emancipation Park and are “memorializing the sacrifices made by political dissidents in Lee Park August 12, 2017.”
But on his blog, Kessler claims that this one, called Back to Charlottesville, will be different.
“At Unite the Right, I was just coming into my own as an event organizer and had faith in the Charlottesville Police Department to abide by the terms of the security arrangement and keep hostile groups separate,” he writes. “Obviously, that is no longer the case. Whereas I once took it in good faith that authorities were keeping the security arrangements secret so that hostile groups like Antifa would not learn of the plans and therefore create a security risk, I now understand that they did that to screw us over.”
The white nationalist continues, “They did it to ENABLE the Antifa to attack us while claiming that WE actually screwed this up by not following the security plan, which, oh-by-the-way, they refuse to release to the public so people can judge for themselves.”
Kessler, also known for his unfavorable reaction to being called a “crybaby” by local attorney Jeff Fogel, says he already has lawyers lined up for his latest event—because when he organized “UTR 1.0,” he was “flying by the seat of [his] pants”—and now when “Charlottesville rejects [his] permit, as [he] fully expects them to do,” he says “we will push back.”
The pro-white advocate also promises better organization at this rally than the one where white supremacists and counterprotesters clashed in the streets with weapons, shields and helmets.
“This time around I worked my ass off,” he says, critiquing his reliance on existing infrastructure—or passing off security to others—earlier this summer. “I don’t like that I didn’t have a megaphone on August 11 to warn marchers that Antifa were waiting for us at the base of the Thomas Jefferson statue. …the morning of August 12, I should have been notified that police didn’t show up to escort our VIPs. That was a huge red flag that I should have been able to use to warn people.”
The new permit requires special event liability insurance of at least $1 million. Insurance Kessler obtained online for the 2017 event was canceled after underwriters learned more about the Unite the Right rally.
Insurance professional Harry Landers says, “If anyone understands all the facts of who he is and what he’s doing, the chances of him obtaining insurance are nil.”
The governor’s task force on the events of August 12 recommended Charlottesville tighten its permit process and restrict weapons and the length of events. Kessler is requesting a two-day permit for a festival from 7am to 11pm Saturday, August 11, 2018, and from 6am to 11pm Sunday.
The announcement comes on the eve of the release of former U.S. attorney Tim Heaphy’s independent review of the city’s handling of the summer of hate, which is on the agenda for the December 4 City Council meeting.
Though traveling outside the country, Mayor Mike Signer says in an email, “I believe public safety should be our paramount concern, with the benefit of the recommendations from the Heaphy report and upcoming advice from our counsel on how to reform our permitting for public events.”
Says former mayor Dave Norris, “The city needs to revisit its ability to manage situations where there’s no assurance of peaceable assembly. This is an organizer who has clearly demonstrated a propensity for unpeaceable assembly.” And because of that, Norris says Kessler has ceded his right to hold public events in Charlottesville
“We need to prove to them that we are the good guys,” Kessler writes. And reiterating his “commitment to nonviolence,” he quotes Ecclesiastes 3:8: “There is a time for war and a time for peace.”
Says Gathers, “White supremacy: the gift that keeps on giving.”
This is an evolving story. We will update it as we get more information. Additional reporting by Lisa Provence.
Updated at 4:15pm November 29 with Mike Signer’s comment.
Updated at 5:24pm.