- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 22, 2020

Jason Kessler, the organizer of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was rebuffed by a federal court judge Friday in a civil suit he brought against the city.

Senior U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon dismissed a lawsuit in which Mr. Kessler, a self-described “pro-white” activist, alleged that the city of Charlottesville had violated his First Amendment rights by allowing fights to break out on the day of the event between participants and counter-protesters, causing authorities to declare an unlawful assembly and ultimately resulting in the rally ending early.

Mr. Kessler, 36, had claimed that Charlottesville was aware “Alt-Right” rallygoers would face opposition from anti-fascist, or “Antifa,” activists, and that the city unconstitutionally effectuated a “heckler’s veto” by not preventing the violence that eventually led to authorities declaring an unlawful assembly.

“Defendants planned to, and did, use the expected and foreseeable confrontations between Antifa and Alt-Right to declare the Unite the Right rally to be an ‘unlawful assembly’ or to declare a ‘state of emergency.’ Defendants did this purely due to their objection to the content of Plaintiffs’ speech,” his lawsuit reads in part.

Ruling for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville, Judge Moon found Mr. Kessler failed to allege any violation of his constitutional rights.

“While Defendants did, of course, have a constitutional obligation to refrain from restricting Plaintiffs’ speech on account of the threat, or possibility, of public hostility to their Alt-Right message, the law is clear that Defendants had no constitutional obligation to prevent that public hostility,” ruled the judge, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton.

“In sum, Plaintiffs’ allegations that defendants failed to prevent private parties from mutually engaging in violence that led to the declaration of an unlawful assembly did not state a claim for the violation of a constitutional right. Further, the allegations in the complaint reflect that the declaration of an unlawful assembly was done for content- and viewpoint-neutral reasons and survives immediate scrutiny,” he added.

Mr. Kessler reacted to the ruling on Twitter by saying he intended to appeal, calling the judge’s opinion in conflict with other court decisions involving hecklers’ vetoes.

“At some point this has to be decided once and for all. We will take it all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to,” Mr. Kessler tweeted.

Charlottesville has no comment at this time on the ruling, a communications director for the city told The Washington Times over the weekend.

Billed a rally held in support of Confederate statues that the Charlottesville City Council had voted to remove, “Unite the Right” turned violent upon fights erupting before the rally was ever officially scheduled to begin. A counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was later killed when a Unite the Right participant drove their car into a group of people, and two Virginia State Police troopers died during a helicopter crash while monitoring the chaos.

Mr. Kessler had filed the suit with David Matthew Parrot, a Unite the Right attendee, against the City of Charlottesville and its then-city manager and chief of police, as well as a VSP lieutenant and the city’s current manager.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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