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SURJ Seeks to Prevent Planned Emancipation Park Rally

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

A racial justice advocacy organization is working to prevent another controversial group from holding a rally in Charlottesville.

Charlottesville SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice) sent a message to members of City Council Wednesday, July 12, urging the city to revoke the permit for the “Unite the Right” rally scheduled for August 12.

SURJ claims that Charlottesville should revoke white activist Jason Kessler's permit on the grounds that the event could be potentially dangerous and will cause an undue financial burden on the city.

“The amount of police presence that was there July 8th was an undue cost burden on the City of Charlottesville and its taxpayers, and increasing that for August 12th is frankly not a reasonable request,” said SURG member Emily Gorcenski.

Members of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan held a rally at Justice Park Saturday, July 8. That event drew over 1,000 people to the park, including many counterprotesters – members of SURJ, Black Lives Matter, and Charlottesville Clergy Collective – and roughly 200 law enforcement officers from several jurisdictions.

Charlottesville City Council argues that when it comes to freedom of speech issues, the process is not that simple.

“The Supreme Court has ruled consistently that even when that speech is abhorrent, even when that speech supports violence, if it’s not immediately threatening violence then it is protected under the First Amendment,” said Councilor Kristin Sazkos.

“I appreciate their concern for free speech but what we saw on July 8th was an absolute suppression of speech by one side of the community, the people demonstrating against white supremacy. I would say that the City Council must revoke the permit,” Gorcenski said.

Kessler is the founder and president of Unity and Security for America, which has described itself as "dedicated to defending Western Civilization including its history, culture and peoples while utterly dismantling Cultural Marxism."

Kessler held a press conference in front of the Charlottesville Police Station on Tuesday, July 11, with members of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club. He said his rally is in support of keeping the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park, previously known as Lee Park.

February 6, a majority of city councilors voted in favor of removing the statue of Lee. Councilors unanimously approved to rename Lee Park and Jackson Park - now Emancipation and Justice parks - during their meeting on June 5.

Speakers for Kessler’s event are said to include Anthime "Baked Alaska” Gionet and National Policy Institute President Richard Spencer, who participated in a torch-lit rally at the same park and another event at Justice Park in May.

Kessler also says he's working with a private security company, and that he expects hundreds of supporters to attend the rally.

Charlottesville's Back to School Bash was set to take place at the Sprint Pavilion on August 12, but the city has moved the even back a week for fear the two events clashing.

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