- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The National Park Service is in the process of deciding whether to permit a “white civil rights rally” proposed to happened mere steps from the White House this summer.

Park officials have approved an application submitted by Jason Kessler, the white nationalist who orchestrated the “Unite the Right” demonstration where a counterprotester died Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, and are weighing whether to let him hold a gathering outside the White House exactly one year later.

“The application has been approved, but the permit has not been issued. We are gathering information from the organizers on the details of the event that will be used to create the permit,” NPS spokesman Michael Litterst told The Washington Times on Wednesday.

“No permit has been issued at this time,” Mr. Litterst added. “The review and permitting process will ensure public safety and the protection of park resources are taken into consideration; we do not consider the content of the message presented.”

The NPS has been “very rigorous in planning for every aspect of the rally,” Mr. Kessler told The Washington Times when reached for comment. “They seem to be taking public safety and free speech protection much more seriously than the Charlottesville government is right now.”

Billed as a rally held in support of a Confederate statue slated to be removed from a park in downtown Charlottesville, last year’s “Unite the Right” demonstration descended into chaos and was ultimately canceled amid clashes erupting between far-right participants and counterprotesters.

Mr. Kessler, a 34-year-old Charlottesville resident, applied in November to hold another rally in town on the event’s anniversary, but he was denied by the city manager and subsequently sued over the rejection in federal court. That case is currently pending, and in the interim he filed an application with NPS last month requesting use of Lafayette Park, directly north of the White House.

“Protesting civil rights abuse in Charlottesville Va / white civil rights rally,” Mr. Kessler wrote in his May 8 permit application in the section where he asked to describe the purpose of the proposed event.

“Attendees will meet at a rally point of convenience for law enforcement, then march to Lafayette to give speeches. Then march back to rally point with law enforcement,” Mr. Kessler wrote.

The proposed event would run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 12, and upwards of 400 people are anticipated to attend, Mr. Kessler wrote on his NPS application.

Lafayette Park is open to the public, but the NPS requires permits for “Demonstrations such as speeches, picketing, vigils and other activities designed to communicate a message,” among other special events.

“As some of America’s foremost civic spaces, national parks in Washington, D.C., have a long history of providing areas for people to exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly,” the NPS spokesman said.

Police have connected last summer’s rally to the deaths of three people, including Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant who was killed after a person identified as a “Unite the Right” participant drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, according to authorities. An Ohio man charged with murder over the incident, James Alex Fields Jr., is scheduled to be tried for her death this fall.

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