Who’s a racist? Wes Bellamy and Jason Kessler speak out at City Council

Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy faces the public after the Thanksgiving tweetstorm caused by his offensive posts.
Photo Eze Amos Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy faces the public after the Thanksgiving tweetstorm caused by his offensive posts. Photo Eze Amos

An overflow crowd packed City Council chambers December 5 for Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy’s first appearance since the racist, misogynist and homophobic tweets he made before taking office were released on Thanksgiving. And the man who created the firestorm, Jason Kessler, showed up with a petition calling for Bellamy’s ouster.

photo eze amos

The majority of attendees were Bellamy supporters, some carrying signs that said, “Stop alt-right hate.”

Mayor Mike Signer voiced his support for Bellamy: “Like many in our community, I was shaken by the revelations of his past Internet speech. I believe in second chances. I reject the content of these communications. I also reject the hatred and outright racism of many of the attacks we’ve received against Mr. Bellamy.”

Signer advised those calling for Bellamy’s removal that City Council has “no such legal authority.”

Bellamy, who issued an apology on Facebook November 27, fell on the sword again at the meeting, after Signer warned protesters that outbursts were strictly forbidden.

“I owe everything to this city and this area, including an apology,” he said. “I’m sorry for the tweets I sent in my early- and mid-20s. I’m not looking to defend or justify my words, as they are indefensible.”

Bellamy thanked the community that had helped him grow “from the arrogant young man who had too little respect for women to the married man with three daughters who has the utmost respect for all women.”

He vowed to grow every day to become a leader for the community. “I’ve truly learned the importance of humility and grace,” he said.

Since the tweets were published, Bellamy, 30, is on administrative leave from his job as a teacher at Albemarle High, and he resigned from his appointment to the state Board of Education.

Other councilors offered their support for Bellamy. Bob Fenwick cited “the virtual mob” that has come after the vice mayor and pledged, “I will stand with Wes.” And Kristin Szakos, who had already publicly supported Bellamy, said after Fenwick spoke, “Like you said.”

Kathy Galvin said the past tweets were “troubling,” but that they did not match her experience in working with Bellamy, which has been one of respect.

Jason Kessler awaits his moment to address City Council. photo eze amos

Kessler, in a T-shirt printed with “The Sword,” came before council with a recording playing Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down,” which Signer asked him to turn off. Kessler said he represented 900 petitioners against Bellamy’s “anti-white, anti-woman and pro-rape” statements.

“I am here to demand Wes Bellamy be removed from office,” he said, also taking aim at Szakos, who early on had speculated that Bellamy’s Twitter account had been hacked or the tweets were fake.

Kessler also contested the ages in which Bellamy said he made his youthful Twitter indiscretions, alleging Bellamy was between 24 and 28.

photo eze amos

And to boos from the audience, he said, “Any one of Bellamy’s tweets would have forced a resignation a week ago if he were a white man.”

Before Thanksgiving, Kessler was pretty much an unknown 33-year-old UVA alum who has published a book of poetry, two online novels and a screenplay.

Now he’s far better known for publishing Bellamy’s offensive tweets.

One week after his Bellamy exposé came out, Kessler notes that he’s made international news—the Daily Caller—as well as national news in the San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Post.

And while he accuses Bellamy of being anti-white, Kessler denies that he’s a white supremacist—and explains some of the nuances of the alt-right movement.

“They don’t even know what alt-right is,” he says of those who have condemned him. “They’re trying to frame Richard Spencer and [National Policy Institute] as alt-right. They’re not.”

Spencer, too, is a UVA alum who burst into the national spotlight during the recent election, and has been credited with coining the term “alt-right,” which is widely associated with white supremacist and white nationalist stances.

Kessler says he follows Milo Yiannopoulos, a writer and editor for Breitbart News, widely described as an alt-right publication, who was permanently suspended from Twitter in July for the “targeted abuse or harassment of others,” and Paul Joseph Watson, an editor at Infowars.com, the home of longtime conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and which U.S. News & World Report has called a fake news site.

Is Jason Kessler mugging for the camera? photo eze amos

Some of the public commenters at City Council took issue with Kessler and the alt-right movement, with one calling him a “white supremacist.”

And the anti-Bellamy speakers noted his call for the removal of Confederate statues and a boycott of UVA lecturer Doug Muir’s restaurant, Bella, for “racist” comments Muir made comparing Black Lives Matter to the Ku Klux Klan.

After Kessler spoke, Szakos interrupted the meeting to alert police officers that Kessler said to Bellamy, “Your days are numbered.”

Clarification and correction December 7: Kessler contacted C-VILLE after this story was published to say he actually said, “527 signatures! We’re going to get him out of here. Your days are numbered.” And that his shirt says The Sword, not The Word.

Correction 5:04pm: The original story cited a Kessler tweet in which he said he was “still a fan” in a discussion of Richard Spencer. Kessler says he’s not a fan of Spencer, and meant he’s a fan of social media personality Mike Cernovich.


Posted In:     News

Tags:     , , , , , , ,

Previous Post

UPDATED: City cop charged with sodomy denied bond

Next Post

West Grounds: More student apartments in Midtown

Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to editor@c-ville.com.

Leave a Reply

Notify of