Legal Documents Offer New Details on Kessler's Plan for August Anniversary
Legal documents are offering new details on what exactly Jason Eric Kessler plans to do for the upcoming anniversary weekend of his Unite the Right rally.
Kessler went before a federal judge Monday, July 23. That hearing is paving the way for Tuesday’s injunction, when Virginia State Police First Sargent Eric Gowin is expected to testify on Kessler’s behalf.
“He [Gowin] didn't feel that Charlottesville was being very cooperative, so he wanted to speak to me so that he could figure out how best to create a plan that would keep demonstrators and counterdemonstrators and the general public safe," Kessler said during a recent, sworn deposition interview with authorities.
The plan, according to Kessler in that recorded deposition, is for state troopers to escort demonstrators to and from "Lee Park" for what he calls a “White Civil Rights rally” on August 11.
Virginia State Police spokesperson Corrine Geller confirms Gowin is an intelligence officer, and that he spoke with Kessler about planning logistics only for the Charlottesville event. In the deposition, Kessler had claimed he met Gowin roughly two weeks ago during a planning meeting for the proposed rally in Washington, D.C. Geller denies Kessler's claim.
Kessler filed a lawsuit against Charlottesville after the city denied his request to hold an event in what is now Market Street Park, previously Emancipation Park.
According to court documents, Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones is arguing Kessler is an "unreliable partner who has and will make it very difficult for the City to adequately prepare for his event if it is forced to grant him a permit." City attorneys say Kessler keeps changing the details of what he plans to do and isn't being truthful. The city has copies of text messages, e-mails and chat room communications to make its case.
The city cites Kessler's original application in November 2017, which stated that he wanted to reserve the downtown park for 32 hours, and expected roughly 400 people to participate. The organizer at some point wanted to hold a rally in Lafayette Park on the same days (August 11-12) as the one in Charlottesville, which he now reportedly expects to last for a little more than one hour.
"On July 7, Plaintiff [Kessler] informed members of the National Park Service that he no longer plans to hold his event in Charlottesville on the same day as his D.C. event, with is August 12," read a legal brief from Jones for the city. "In November, Plaintiff stated in his application that 400 would attend... In June he said 300... On July 12, Plaintiff announced publically that he expects 'two dozen people' to attend the event."
Kessler states during his deposition that he no longer has time to prepare for an event in Charlottesville for August 12, focusing instead on his plans for Washington, D.C.:
Q: Okay. And is it your understanding or expectation that even if the Court were to grant your motion and order the City to give you a permit, this would be the event you expect, two dozen people, get in and get out?
A: Yeah. That's what we would do.
Q: Okay. And when you say "get in and get out," about what timeframe are you thinking of for this event?
A: I would prefer to do it on August 11th.
Q: Okay. And why August 11th?
A: Because at this a date, I don't have time to prepare for August 12th, and I'm preparing another rally in Washington, D.C.
Evidence also suggests Kessler has once again invited National Policy Institute President Richard Spencer to attend both events, despite making claims that he did not want him to come.
Kessler is expected to ask the federal judge on Tuesday, July 24, to grant an injunction to allow the Charlottesville event to move forward.
The city is not commenting on the new court filings.
The National Park Service tells NBC29 there is currently no update on the status for Kessler's application to hold an event in Lafayette Park.
"In the case of large and complex events such as this, it is not unusual that it takes time to address all of the necessary details so that the permit can be issued, sometimes no earlier than the week of the event," said Mike Litterst, chief of communications.