Kessler Withdraws Legal Demand to Hold August Rally in Charlottesville
Unite the Right rally organizer Jason Eric Kessler will not be holding the August event he had originally planned for downtown Charlottesville.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Unite the Right rally organizer Jason Eric Kessler will not be holding the August event he had originally planned for downtown Charlottesville.
Kessler withdrew his request for an injunction Tuesday, July 24, in a federal court. According to acting City Attorney Lisa Robertson, Kessler did not give a reason for withdrawing the request, but the city believes it was the right thing to do.
"I am relieved that Mr. Kessler decided to withdraw his permit. I think this helps us move forward in the right direction," said Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy. "I also believe this allows our city to truly start the process of healing."
The self-described white activist had filed a lawsuit against the city after it denied his application to hold a two-day rally in then-Emancipation Park on August 11-12. The lawsuit argues the defendants - Charlottesville and City Manager Maurice Jones - denied the plaintiff's First and 14th Amendment rights.
The city claims Kessler is unreliable, and amassed evidence that suggests the plaintiff keeps changing details and is not being truthful.
"I think the city's very relieved with the outcome, and we think it's appropriate," said John Longstretch, attorney for Charlottesville.
Kessler has stated in recent sworn depositions that he was no longer planning a multi-day rally with hundreds of supporters. Instead, he told authorities that he wanted to hold a brief demonstration in Market Street Park with roughly two dozen people - which would not require a permit - on August 11.
After Tuesday's legal proceedings, Kessler posted on Twitter that his focus for August 12 is now entirely on Washington, D.C. Kessler has applied to hold a rally in Lafayette Park in the nation's capital on Sunday, August 12. Officials have yet to make a decision on that application.
Attorneys representing Kessler gave conflicting information on what their client plans to do in Charlottesville that weekend: One of them said Kessler has no interested in rallying in Market Street Park, while the other counselor believes his client will gather with some people on August 11.
Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney says her department is still preparing for a major presence in downtown Charlottesville for that August weekend.
"We understand the weekend and that day has national significance and even international significance so we're going to be prepared for that weekend to come regardless," Brackney said.
Following Tuesday’s court hearing, Kessler said via Twitter that he is now focusing exclusively on Washington, D.C. for August 12.
07/24/2018 Release from the City of Charlottesville:
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – Today in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Judge Norman K. Moon held a hearing in the case of Jason Kessler v. City of Charlottesville.
At the hearing, Kessler withdrew his request for a court-ordered issuance of an event permit for August 11-12, 2018 in the City’s Market Street Park.
The City’s case was presented by John Longstreth and Linda Odom of the firm K&L Gates and was supported by staff in the City Attorney’s office.
“We worked very hard to present the city's case in as much detail as we could,” said Acting City Attorney Lisa Robertson. “Kessler did not give a reason for withdrawing his request, but we are glad that he did, it was the right thing to do.”
The City denied Kessler’s application on December 11, 2017.
“We can move forward,” added Robertson. “He has not yet dismissed the lawsuit, just his request for the court to order a permit.”
The City of Charlottesville has not approved any other permits at this time. We will evaluate the pending event requests for Market Street Park to consider whether they can safely be permitted during August 10-12, 2018.