The organizer of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally is dropping his legal fight with Charlottesville over how the city issues permits and the denial of permission to hold a second rally in town this year.
The attorney for Jason Kessler, the racist and self-described “white rights activist,” and an attorney for the city filed a joint motion to dismiss the litigation in federal court on Friday. U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon granted the request and cancelled a trial date in the case set for April 2019.
The move comes just a week before Kessler plans to hold a second “Unite the Right” rally at Lafayette Square Park across the street from the White House in Washington, D.C., on August 12. It also throws into question whether Kessler will try to get a permit to hold future rallies in his hometown of Charlottesville.
Neither Kessler nor his attorney, James Kolenich of Cincinnati, responded to emailed questions Monday morning. Kessler’s other attorney on the case, Elmer Woodard of Blairs, Virginia, who has represented multiple white nationalists, withdrew from the case a week ago, saying Kessler “has not met his financial responsibilities.”
Kessler filed a federal lawsuit against city officials after the city rejected his request for a permit to hold a second “Unite the Right” rally at a park near downtown. Kessler modified that request multiple times, giving different estimates of how long he would use Emancipation Park, which is home to a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, as well as how many people might attend. As part of the lawsuit, Kessler asked Judge Moon to issue an injunction forcing the issuance of a permit for the rally.
Kessler dropped the bid for an injunction during a hearing on July 24 after arriving 45 minutes late for the court proceedings. Kolenich said after that hearing that the lawsuit would go on in an attempt to ensure future permits would be granted.
The first “Unite the Right” rally, which took place on August 11 and 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, attracted a large number of armed neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other racist "alt-right" figures, as well as large crowds of counter-protesters. Just before it began, the planned rally was declared an unlawful assembly by the authorities and, as crowds began to disperse, a large group of counter-protesters proceeded down Charlottesville’s 4th street. It was there that a car sped into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer. James Alex Fields, Jr., faces a murder charge in state court and federal hate crime charges stemming from her death.
Photo by AP Images/Steve Helber