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Sources: 4,000 People May Fill Emancipation Park During August Rally

Posted: Updated: Jul 21, 2017 05:55 PM
Statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park (FILE IMAGE) Statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park (FILE IMAGE)
People gathering at Justice Park in Charlottesville (Courtesy skycladaerial.com) People gathering at Justice Park in Charlottesville (Courtesy skycladaerial.com)
Jason Kessler with members of a motorcycle club in front of Charlottesville Police Department (FILE IMAGE) Jason Kessler with members of a motorcycle club in front of Charlottesville Police Department (FILE IMAGE)
Image from Jason Kessler's Facebook page Image from Jason Kessler's Facebook page
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Police sources say they are expecting thousands of people to crowd around Emancipation Park during a planned controversial rally next month.

Sources tell NBC29 that authorities are anticipating up to 4,000 people to fill the park and surround it during white activist Jason Kessler’s “Unite the Right” event on August 12. His permit states that Kessler’s rally will be held from noon to 5 p.m. that Saturday, and up to 400 supporters will attend. However, the vast majority of people at the park may once again be those protesting the rally.

Kessler says that his event is to show support for the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in what is now Emancipation Park – previously called Lee Park. A majority of city councilors have voted in favor of removing the statue.

NBC29 has also learned that Charlottesville asked Kessler to move the location of the rally due to security concerns, but he declined. The city said it is still looking into other viable locations for the event, if possible.

In a statement to NBC29, Kessler said, “The Unite the Right demonstration is meant to show support for the Lee Monument in Lee [sic] Park. Any attempt to move the venue is an infringement of the demonstrators' constitutional First Amendment rights.”

Charlottesville SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice) and Solidarity Cville have both asked the officials to revoke Kessler’s permit. SURJ claims the event could be potentially dangerous and will cause an undue financial burden on the city.

The July 8 rally at Justice Park by dozens supporters and members of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was met with many counterprotesters – including members of SURJ, Solidary Cville, Black Lives Matter, and the Charlottesville Clergy Collective.

Officials estimated a crowd of over 1,000 people were at Justice Park that day, not including the roughly 200 law enforcement officers on-hand to keep the peace for the Klan's nearly hour-long event.

It is expected that the upcoming rally at Emancipation Park will also be met by large protests by members of the same groups that were against the KKK.

“SURJ, Black Lives Matter and Antifa [Antifascist] are trying to use Heckler's Veto to shut down the event by arguing that their counter-demonstration will sow so much chaos that the Unite the Right event could not be allowed to proceed,” Kessler said in a statement.

A city spokesperson said the Charlottesville Police Department hopes to refine the current crowd projection in the next two weeks.

Statement from Jason Kessler:

“The Unite the Right demonstration is meant to show support for the Lee Monument in Lee Park. Any attempt to move the venue is an infringement of the demonstrators' constitutional First Amendment rights.

“SURJ, Black Lives Matter and Antifa are trying to use Heckler's Veto to shut down the event by arguing that their counter-demonstration will sow so much chaos that the Unite the Right event could not be allowed to proceed.

“That's not how this works. In the United States of America vigilante mobs do not determine who gets to exercise their constitutional rights and who does not. The vigilante mob tactics of SURJ and Black Lives Matter show they have more in common with the Klan than they think.”

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