Jason Kessler, organizer of the August white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville that led to violent clashes and the deaths of a counterprotester and two Virginia state troopers, announced Wednesday he is seeking a permit to hold an anniversary rally at the same park on Aug. 11 and 12 of next year.
Kessler posted an image on his blog of the permit request. Under the “Event Purpose” section, he wrote: “Rally against government civil rights abuse and failure to follow security plans for political dissidents. We are opposing any changes to Lee (Emancipation) Park and memorializing the sacrifices made by political dissidents in Lee Park August 12, 2017.”
Miriam Dickler, spokeswoman for the city of Charlottesville, said the city received the request Monday and it is under review. Kessler, and other white nationalist leaders, are facing two lawsuits by Charlottesville residents, business leaders and elected officials that aim to prevent them from holding an event that would lead to a repeat of violence.
In a lengthy blog post, Kessler says he expects the city to reject his permit, and that he and his lawyers are prepared to fight back.
“My attorneys will not allow government actors to do any secretive shenanigans to screw us over,” he wrote.
Kessler organized the Unite the Right rally earlier this year as a response to a decision by Charlottesville to rename Lee Park as Emancipation Park and to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the park.
Hundreds of white nationalists and white supremacists from all over the country descended on Charlottesville for a torchlight march through the University of Virginia campus the evening of Aug. 11 and a rally the following day. It turned out to be the largest public gathering of white supremacists in decades.
Scheduled to begin at noon, the rally was canceled by law enforcement before it began when large-scale brawls broke out between marchers and counterprotesters. Sporadic fighting continued through early afternoon. A little before 2 p.m., James Alex Fields, a 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer from Ohio, allegedly drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring 19 others.
The state troopers, who were monitoring the events, died when their helicopter crashed.
“Hate came to our town today in a way that we had feared, but we had never really let ourselves imagine would,” Maurice Jones, Charlottesville’s city manager, said that evening.
A few days after the Charlottesville rally, Kessler posted a comment about Heyer on Twitter.
“Heather Heyer was a fat disgusting Communist,” Kessler tweeted. “Communists have killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback time.”
In October, Kessler was arrested after he allegedly shared online the home address of an anti-racism activist. He denied responsibility.
In his blog post Wednesday, Kessler said the ability to protest in public was essential and compared the United States to Poland, where 60,000 nationalists recently marched in a torch-lit procession that drew widespread condemnation from anti-fascist organizations around the world.
“The United States is not Poland, where 60,000 nationalists can proudly march in the street,” he wrote. “In our country the proud Americans, the forgotten Americans, are intimidated into silence by the moral race panic of the elites.”
Charlottesville is awaiting a review by former U.S. attorney Timothy Heaphy on how the city and its police force handled the Unite the Right Rally. The report is expected Monday.
Asked about Kessler’s request for a new permit, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said in a statement: “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.”