Relying on familiar tropes of “white genocide” and “demographic displacement,” white nationalist blogger Jason Kessler achieved notoriety for his role in organizing the disastrous "Unite the Right" march on August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one protester dead and dozens injured.
About Jason Kessler
In his words
“Heather Heyer was a fat, disgusting Communist. Communists have killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback time.”
— August 19, 2017
“Like Black Lives Matter, militant Islam exists as a call to action for the violent rage some minorities feel towards the white majority.”
— From Jason Kessler’s novel Esteban Santiago: The Siren Song of Jihad for Immigrants and the Mentally Ill, January 7, 2017
“But make no mistake, the age of innocence is over for whites politically. We are becoming a displaced minority in our own country thanks to Democrat policies. They tax the hell out of middle class families who might want to have more children while paying for welfare queens to have 5 or 6 babies they can't support. They provide sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants who flood in from south of the border and import Islamists from the most dangerous countries on Earth. The time for supplication is over. We need to fight back!”
— “The End of Identity Politics: To Ensure Peace, Prepare for War,” December 23, 2016
“I don’t understand why they’re trying to pretend that disproportionate Jewish influence is a conspiracy … they have this enormous wealth and they’re using it to wield power.”
— LIVE with Jason Kessler: Unite the Right, July 17, 2017.
“The Alt-Right is a threat to the establishment. We’re talking about the people who run the media. We know there’s disproportionate Jewish influence—I’m not somebody who sees that that everywhere but I will call them out — they’re afraid of that. We’re talking about the fact that there are biological differences in race. We’ll talk about the fact that white people have a right to organize for their interests just like any other group does and that if we don’t do so we’re going to be replaced and there won’t be a future for our people."
— “Rebel Yell” Podcast Episode 223: Charlottesville II The Quickening, July 6, 2017
“Our entire country would be better off if the South had won the Civil War.”
— Appearance at a rally in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2017
About Jason Kessler
A relative newcomer to the white nationalist scene, Jason Kessler first made waves in his 2016 attempt to unseat Charlottesville’s former vice mayor and only black city councilman and for his status as a bridge between Virginia gubernatorial and senatorial candidate Corey Stewart and the racist “alt-right.” Relying on familiar tropes of “white genocide” and “demographic displacement,” Kessler sought to parlay his status as a lonely dissenter in the “Capital of the Resistance” into notoriety on the larger far-right circuit by organizing a second white nationalist rally in Charlottesville after the first, torchlit rally in May of 2017 made headlines.
“Unite the Right,” as the rally came to be known, brought out hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, militia groups and a larger body of counter-protesters. Clashes between far-right groups and counter-protesters led to the declaration of a state of emergency before the permitted event was scheduled to start. One protester, Heather Heyer, was killed and 19 were injured when an event attendee drove his car through a crowd. Although Kessler was ostracized by much of the organized far-right after the event, he has won back some support through his attempts to organize a follow-up rally on the anniversary of “Unite the Right.”
A “journalist, activist and author from Charlottesville, VA,” Kessler’s since-deleted LinkedIn account stated that he graduated from the University of Virginia in 2009. He was virtually unknown in the media prior to his crusade against Charlottesville’s former vice mayor and current city councilman Wes Bellamy.
Arrest records indicate that Kessler was convicted in 2005 for shoplifting, obstructing justice and for a string of failures to appear and register, in addition to numerous traffic violations and citations.
Kessler started his blog “Jason Kessler, American Author,” toward the end of 2015 and spent the majority of the next year dispensing mindset and lifestyle advice and promoting two books authored during a period of “worldwide travel.” The first is a book of poetry titled Midnight Road, and the second a novel called Badland Blues about a “drunken dwarf,” who is “unlucky in love, looks or money.”
Rumors abound on white nationalist forums that Kessler’s ideological pedigree before 2016 was less than pure. Detractors point to involvement in the Occupy movement around 2011 and past support for President Obama. An individual who knew Kessler during his involvement with Occupy alleged Kessler had shown up at then-Lee Park with “his own tent and literature,” and noted Kessler was eventually voted out of the group for advocating violence against police using bricks and Molotov cocktails.
Kessler himself has placed his “red-pilling” around December of 2013 when a PR executive was publicly excoriated for a tasteless Twitter joke about AIDS in Africa.
Regarding the incident, Kessler stated “… so it was just a little race joke, nothing that big of a deal, she didn’t have that many followers, she probably didn’t think anybody was gonna see it,”
Regardless of Kessler’s past politics, the rightward shift in his views was first put on display in November 2016 when his tirade against Wes Bellamy began.
Bellamy, then a teacher at Charlottesville’s Albemarle High School teacher and vice mayor, first drew Kessler’s ire after organizing a press conference to call for the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in downtown Charlottesville on March 22, 2016. After a face-to-face encounter at a second rally protesting a UVA lecturer who referred to Black Lives Matter as a racist group, Kessler set his sights on having Bellamy removed from office.
That November, Kessler posted an expose revealing lewd and offensive tweets and retweets made by Bellamy prior to entering office. Beneath a photo captioned with a reference to the racist “Kangz” meme white nationalists employ to mock the Black Egyptian hypothesis, Kessler asserted that Bellamy’s tweets were proof of “anti-white bias.”
Kessler went on to assert that Bellamy attained his position on the Charlottesville Board of Education because “Democrats … are political elitists, hiding behind Wes Bellamy … Bellamy is untouchable to them, no matter how ridiculously anti-white he is.”
Kessler’s unearthing of Bellamy’s sexist, homophobic and bigoted tweets did garner some coverage on the national scene. Relishing in the spotlight, Kessler pressed the attack.
In December 2016, Kessler announced a petition demanding Bellamy step down or be removed “[i]n light of recently revealed anti-white, racist and pro-rape comments.”
On January 22, 2017, Kessler was arrested for misdemeanor assault after he punched a man while gathering signatures for his petition against Bellamy. Kessler initially filed assault charges against the man but dropped them after video footage revealed that Kessler had swung without physical provocation.
“Man to man, yell in a man's face and expect to get punched in the face," Kessler said of the incident.
"He and his buddy came over, they scribbled on my petition and vandalized it. [The victim] didn't want to have a conversation with me … and he called me a name. I felt threatened and I hit him to get him away from me."
Kessler pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service later that May.
Filed in February 2017, the petition was dismissed in March of that year.
Unity & Security for America
As Kessler was filing his failed petition, Unity & Security for America, a nativist, white nationalist group he founded, launched its website.
In a GoFundMe started by one of Kessler’s Unity & Security for America cohorts to fund the “man hours to prepare for [protests], body armor to protect our journalist from a knife to the ribs, a professional quality microphone for interviewer [sic] the protestors and much more,” the group is described as “a revolutionary right-wing grassroots movement. Founded by author and activist Jason Kessler who broke the Wes Bellamy Twitter scandal, USA is transformational movement within the Cultural Marxist hell that is Charlottesville.”
“Cultural Marxism” refers to a conspiracy that a group of Jewish leaders escaped Nazi Germany and have since sought to “erode Western values” through cultural influence.
Kessler and Unity & Security for America spent the early part of 2017 supporting the campaign of pro-Confederate Virginia gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart, a member of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors who drew headlines for referring to an opponent as a “c---servative” and whose Wikipedia page had unflattering references edited out by Stewart’s campaign staff. Stewart has done little to distance himself from Kessler in the aftermath of “Unite the Right,” instead denigrating other Republicans as being “soft” for condemning the alt-right.
Kessler and his group appeared at Stewart campaign stops in 2017 alongside known members and affiliates of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate hate group that wants to bring about a theocratic white nationalist state in the South.
Regarding the League of the South, Kessler stated, “Dr. Michael Hill from the League of the South, these are good confederate voices … because this is about the Confederacy which is an American ethnic group,” reflecting the League’s bizarre conception of “white Anglo-Celtic Southerners” as a separate and distinct ethnic polity from the rest of America.
Kessler has railed against “carpetbaggers” in Richmond, Charlottesville and the state as a whole, much as the League of the South rails against Yankees “filling up Dixie.” Nevertheless, “Copperheads” who agree with their pro-Lost Cause icon agenda, like the Minnesota-born Stewart, are apparently granted a pass.
In April 2017, Kessler retweeted a post by a Twitter account associated with The Right Stuff (TRS). The post shared a racist blog penned by Identity Dixie, a neo-Confederate offshoot of the white nationalist TRS, titled “The Shadow Over Charlottesville.” The piece outlined Kessler’s efforts to dislodge Bellamy over Bellamy’s problematic tweets and retweets and referred to Bellamy as a “pavement ape” and “Councilman Dindu,” while also disparaging a federal judge as a “j------” and “pinko-commie f---” in the city of Charlottesville.
That same month, Kessler penned his first article for VDare, a xenophobic, nativist publication started by Peter Brimelow. Kessler has since written four additional blogs for the publication, including the most recent, posted on June 19, 2017, titled “Yes, Virginia (Dare), There Is Such A Thing As White Genocide.”
Kessler has also written for GotNews.com, a website established by white nationalist internet troll Chuck Johnson.
Uniting the right
On May 13, 2017, a group of white nationalists descended upon Charlottesville for a day-long protest over the efforts to remove the Lee and Jackson statues in city parks. The event culminated in a torch-lit march to the statue of Robert E. Lee, which generated a great deal of coverage noting the visual similarities between the torch-lit rally and cross-lightings at Ku Klux Klan gatherings where Civil War veterans gathered to strike back against Reconstruction.
Kessler has maintained that he was not involved in the organization of the May 13 march and nighttime torch-lit rally. This account was contradicted by an independent review of the run-up to, and day of, the “Unite the Right” rally conducted by law firm Hunton & Williams which maintains, “Spencer and Kessler joined forces to organize …two events on Saturday, May 13.”
Kessler was arrested at a protest at the Lee statue the following evening for failure to obey an officer’s commands, scarcely weeks after entering his guilty plea for misdemeanor assault. Kessler went to the location of the May 14 protest and began removing signs from Lee’s statue when he and two other individuals were arrested following a dispersal order.
The next day conservative news outlet The Daily Caller posted an article on the protest penned by Kessler.
The Daily Caller later issued a correction noting that Kessler’s take on the day’s events was less than impartial, as he had spoken with a luncheon gathering of pro-monument supporters, praised several racist organizations and called for a second Civil War.
The incident was indicative of the problems associated with Kessler’s self-styled brand of “independent journalism,” which typically consists of attending local protests with a bullhorn and provocative signs, then decrying coverage by reputable news outlets.
The Caller stated of Kessler “[I]n light of his activism on the issue, we have mutually agreed to suspend our freelance relationship with him.” Per a deposition of Kessler, he earned $240 as a writer for the Daily Caller.
Regarding the torch-lit march, Kessler attempted to elide the controversy by claiming in a tweet that “European people have a long history of torch-lit funeral processions to honor the dead See: Vikings”
Nevertheless, Kessler admitted the use of torches was in some way intended to cause controversy in the press.
“When they saw the torches that we did in the evening there was a mass triggering that took place.”
Kessler began organizing a follow-up rally in response to “hyperbolic rhetoric by the media” shortly thereafter, creating a Facebook event in early June.
On May 30, 2017, Kessler submitted his permit application for the “Unite the Right” rally on August 12, 2017. The permit was approved on July 27, 2017.
In the run-up to the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally, Kessler made rounds with white nationalists, racists and reactionaries of all stripes, all in the name of “free speech.”
Kessler’s newfound popularity among the far right caused some of his former associates to distance themselves from him. Two fellow members of Unity & Security for America publicly denounced Kessler, with one stating, “He’s affiliated himself with people who are — to put it mildly — ideologically distasteful. And now he’s associated with people involved with organized crime. It’s turning into a rabbit hole. And I want nothing to do with that.”
Those scheduled to speak at the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” event included Richard Spencer, who spoke at the first Charlottesville rally, Mike Peinovich aka Mike Enoch of The Right Stuff, Matthew Heimbach of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party, Augustus Invictus, a pagan neo-fascist who has pledged to bring about a second Civil War, ex-Klansman David Duke, white supremacist shock jock Chris Cantwell, Tim Gionet AKA Baked Alaska, podcast host John Ramondetta AKA Johnny Monoxide, former Business Insider CTO Pax Dickinson and Michael Hill of the League of the South. A rancorous debate emerged within the far right over Kessler’s refusal to let Robert Ray aka “Azzmador,” a Texas-based representative of the Daily Stormer speak, due to Kessler’s fears that Ray’s militant racism and Nazism would generate bad publicity.
In a July 5, 2017 meeting with law enforcement, Kessler declined to tell authorities how many attendees he expected at the event.
On July 11, 2017, Kessler appeared before Charlottesville’s town hall to promote his rally and to distance himself from a rally the previous weekend by the Loyal White Knights of the KKK. The Klan rally took place in front of a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in an attempt to capitalize on the spotlight shining on Charlottesville. Flanked by members of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club, Kessler railed against the media, local anti-racist group Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) and Black Lives Matter.
When pressed on whether he disavowed the KKK rally, Kessler stated, “I didn’t want them here.”
As for his motive in organizing the event, Kessler stated: “I didn’t do it, Wes Bellamy did.”
On August 7, 2017, days before the “Unite the Right” rally was scheduled to take place, City officials attempted to force a venue change from Emancipation Park, the site of the Lee statue, to McIntire Park, located in a less crowded part of the city. Kessler declined and insisted on proceeding with the planned location. He was aided by the American Civil Liberties Union and The Rutherford Institute in submitting a cease and desist letter against the City of Charlottesville, which was denied by the Charlottesville city attorney. On August 11, 2017, a United States District Court ruled in favor of Kessler, the ACLU and The Rutherford Institute in an emergency lawsuit to prevent the venue change.
Late in the evening on August 11, 2017, a column of white nationalists organized by Kessler and others marched from a nearby field to the University of Virginia’s rotunda. Hundreds of white nationalists bearing Tiki torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us” surrounded a small group of counter-protesters who had clustered around the rotunda’s statue of Thomas Jefferson. The torch-bearing marchers began shouting and pushing the counter-protesters. A brawl broke out and several protesters were injured, resulting in a lawsuit against Christopher Cantwell.
Early on August 12, a large group of “Unite the Right” demonstrators gathered in McIntire park. The protesters marched toward Emancipation Park just before 10 a.m. Kessler was among a group of VIPs who had a coordinated security detail assigned to protect them during the event. By 11:30 a.m., a local state of emergency was declared as brawls broke out between demonstrators, counter-protesters and anti-fascist activists. By the end of the day three people were dead — Heather Heyer and two Virginia State troopers involved in a helicopter crash — and dozens were injured. Numerous lawsuits stemming from the violence that day are ongoing.
On August 13, 2017, Kessler held a press conference outside of Charlottesville City Hall to deflect blame for the disastrous rally onto the Charlottesville city government and police. As Kessler spoke a crowd pressed swarmed toward him, causing him to flee into a nearby government building.
Two days after the rally, Kessler was a guest on “The Gavin McInnes Show.” Although Kessler and host McInnes, founder of the “Western chauvinist” hate group Proud Boys, had appeared chummy in the days leading up to “Unite the Right,” McInnes claimed that Kessler had joined his group to recruit members to the alt-right and that Kessler had been ejected from the Proud Boys “once his racist views became known.”
In the early hours of August 19, Kessler posted a disparaging tweet about dead counter-protester Heather Heyer. The tweet contained a link to an article on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. Facing immense backlash on social media, Kessler claimed that his account had been hacked and then blamed his actions on intoxication and sleep deprivation before deleting his account. Kessler was excoriated in the press and much of the far-right sought to further distance itself from him.
Undeterred, Kessler continued to seek alliances with various far-right leaders. He appeared on a slew of movement podcasts and attempted to lay the blame for “Unite the Right’s” collapse and the destruction it caused on other movement figures, particularly Elliot Kline aka Eli Mosely, the now-disgraced leader of Identity Evropa. Kessler stayed in frequent contact with Chris Cantwell, who at the time was jailed in Charlottesville. Cantwell was arrested shortly after the rally in relation to the August 11 torchlit brawl, where Cantwell allegedly illegally used pepper spray against counter-protesters. Kessler and Cantwell’s relationship soured by early 2018 and the two have since denounced each other.
Cantwell wrote in June of 2018 that “Anybody who wants to get assaulted and smeared as a violent Nazi is welcome to follow Jason Kessler.”
Kessler was listed among those named in two federal lawsuits related to the planning and coordination of the rally. Kessler has attended the trials of various other defendants on both the political left and right and continued to make his presence known at Charlottesville City Council meetings.
In late September 2017, Kessler announced the creation of a new organization called “The New Byzantium Project,” billed as “a premier organization for pro-white advocacy in the 21st century.”
On October 4, 2017, Kessler was indicted on a perjury charge related to his complaint filed in January over Kessler’s spat during his petition campaign against Bellamy. The charges were dropped in March 2018.
On November 27, 2017, Kessler filed a permit with the City of Charlottesville for a “Unite the Right” anniversary rally. The stated purpose of the anniversary event was to “Rally against government civil rights abuse and failure to follow security plans for political dissidents.”
The City of Charlottesville denied the permit application in December 2017 citing the potential for violence, prompting a lawsuit from Kessler.
In January 2018, Kessler appeared on two episodes of Identity Dixie’s “Rebel Yell” podcast. In the first, titled “Jason Kessler, A New Year,” Kessler attempted to parlay “Unite the Right” as a success and to solicit support from the group for his planned anniversary rally. Host “Musonius Rufus” took Kessler to task for attempting to pass blame for the rally’s failure off on other far-right leaders and organizers. Rufus convinced Kessler to acknowledge his responsibility for the outcomes of the fateful weekend.
Quoting Musonius Rufus: “Kessler, will you claim that the buck stops here and that you are responsible for Charlottesville? And that you’re going to be responsible for the next one, that it’s all you?”
Kessler responded: “Well the next one will definitely be on me…I would say that I handed off the security aspects of that thing.” After Rufus objected Kessler acknowledged, “That still goes back to me because my — It was inexperience on my part not to know that I needed to control that [security] aspect and micromanage it so in that aspect it is my fault.”
Kessler was unable to garner promises of support from Identity Dixie or many of the other groups that had attended “Unite the Right.” In his appearance on Rebel Yell, Rufus indicated that Kessler would have to personally ensure that all attendees were committed to not retaliating against counter-protesters, wearing body cameras and that there would be adequate legal backing for any such rally in order to gain the group’s support. Kessler purportedly had a falling out with the group over his failure to deliver on those expectations.
On March 16, 2018, Kessler was involved in an altercation outside of a Charlottesville courthouse. Kessler sued a local woman under a Virginia anti-dueling statute for $500 after she shouted obscenities at Kessler as he attended the trial of “Unite the Right” counter-protester Deandre Harris. A judge decided in favor of Kessler and awarded him $5 in on June 29, 2018.
In April 2018, the University of Virginia Law Library altered its policies to only allow those possessing a university identification card on its premises in response to complaints by students and employees over multiple appearances by Kessler in the library.
In July 2018, an aide to Corey Stewart’s senatorial campaign was found to have participated in Kessler’s planning chatroom for the “Unite the Right” anniversary rally. Stewart has yet to distance himself from the aide or from Kessler in any meaningful way.
Kessler withdrew his lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville over his denied application on July 24, 2018, and has stated his intention to host his anniversary rally at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., where he has received a permit.