- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 7, 2018

A federal court on Friday scheduled a hearing to decide whether to let Jason Kessler, the white nationalist who organized the deadly August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, hold another demonstration in town on the event’s first anniversary.

Senior U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon will hold a hearing in Charlottesville federal court on July 24 to consider a civil rights lawsuit brought by Mr. Kessler against Charlottesville and its city manager for denying his permit for a proposed “Unite the Right 2” rally to be held Aug. 11-12, the case docket said Friday.

If the court rules in Mr. Kessler’s favor, Charlottesville will have less than three weeks to prepare for potential chaos like the kind that unfolded during last year’s event when violent clashes between “Unite the Right” participants and counterprotesters ultimately culminated in three fatalities and a 30-count federal hate-crime indictment.

Maurice Jones, the city manager, said in a court filing that “the short time remaining before the event will significantly impair the City’s efforts to plan for the event,” putting Charlottesville at risk of witnessing violence like last year.

Reached for comment, Mr. Kessler accused Charlottesville’s government of contributing to last year’s tragedy.

“No one would be able to hold a safe event under the circumstances Charlottesville created last year when they rescinded police protection at the 11th hour and let a violent heckler’s veto play out on the streets of their city,” Mr. Kessler, 34, told The Washington Times.

Billed as a protest held in response to the slated removal of a Confederate statue, last year’s rally was canceled by authorities before officially starting when fights broke out on the morning of the event. An Ohio man identified as a “Unite the Right” attendee, James Alex Fields, later drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one person and injuring dozens of others, according to police, and two Virginia state troopers were killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the chaos.

Mr. Kessler applied in November to hold another rally on the event’s anniversary, but Mr. Jones denied his permit over safety concerns given the previous event’s outcome. Mr. Kessler subsequently sued the city and Mr. Jones in March, and last month he asked for either a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction letting the rally take place, setting the stage for the July 24 hearing set Friday.

“The City is suppressing Mr. Kessler’s speech due to it’s [sic] content. The City may not join in or acquiesce in a heckler’s veto of Mr. Kessler’s speech,” James Kolenich, an attorney for Mr. Kessler, wrote in last month’s motion.

“Plaintiff’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction is remarkably thin,” Linda Odom, an attorney for Charlottesville, responded Friday.

Politics “had no bearing on me approving the permits last year, and denying the permit this year, it’s all based on public safety and what wethought we could handle,” Mr. Jones said in a June 15 disposition filed in court Friday. “[T]heir message wasn’t what concerned me, it was the violence that concerned me, and the public safety issues associated with that violence.”

Mr. Kessler previously indicated he planned to rally in D.C., if not in Charlottesville. An application to hold a “white civil rights rally” at Lafayette Park directly north of the White House is currently pending before the U.S. National Park Service.

Mr. Fields, meanwhile, was charged with 30 criminal hate crime counts last month in connection with the Aug. 2017 alleged automobile attack. He pleaded not guilty earlier this week to all counts. 

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