The National Park Service has granted Jason Kessler, co-organizer of last year’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally, initial approval to host a first-anniversary event in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 12, 2018. This summer’s rally is scheduled to take place across from the White House in Lafayette Square on the National Mall, protesting what Kessler called “civil rights abuse in Charlottesville.”
Kessler, a University alumnus, organized the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in downtown Charlottesville alongside Richard Spencer, white nationalist and creator of altright.com. During the march on Aug. 12, 32-year-old Heather Heyer died and several others were injured when a self-proclaimed Nazi drove his car through a crowd of anti-fascist protesters.
The City of Charlottesville denied Kessler’s request to hold his anniversary rally in Emancipation Park, the venue for last year’s violent event. Kessler has since sued the City for an alleged violation of the First Amendment. Kessler claims that if he prevails, he will hold “white civil rights” rallies in both Charlottesville and Washington, D.C. on Aug. 12, 2018.
The University banned Kessler from Grounds in April 2018, after students reported that Kessler “threatened them, targeted them through cyber-bullying and cyber-harassment, and targeted them based on protected characteristics.” Earlier that week, Kessler had visited the University Law Library and allegedly harassed other visitors and faculty.
Spencer led a torchlit march through University Grounds at the Aug. 2017 “Unite the Right” event, a choice which he boasted “shocked the world,” but told Newsweek that he will likely not participate in the planned anniversary march in Lafayette Square. At last year’s torchlit event on Grounds, demonstrators chanted messages such as the Nazi mantra, “blood and soil,” and “one people, one nation, end immigration!”
While the National Park Service approved Kessler’s request for an anniversary “Unite the Right” rally across from the White House, no official permit has been issued yet. According to WUSA-TV, Kessler feels this second rally is essential to protect the voices of white Americans, a group he sees as persistently marginalized.
“It wasn’t the fault of my group that stuff happened [last year,]” Kessler claimed. Speaking of whites, he said, “We’re not able to peacefully assemble. We’re not able to speak…This rally is not about opposing you. This is about us. This is about white people and standing up for our rights.”
Kessler chose the National Mall as his planned event’s location in the hopes of alerting President Donald Trump and other elected officials to the “civil rights abuse by the Charlottesville government that led to the violence at last year’s rally” and the fact that “white people are being denied the ability to organize in political organizations the way other groups do, free of harassment, to face the issues important to us.”
Litigation in Kessler’s federal lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville is ongoing.