City denies Jason Kessler’s permit for ‘Unite the Right’ anniversary rally

City also denies four other permits for same weekend

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Jason Kessler organized this past August’s rally, which left three dead and dozens injured.

Anna Higgins | Cavalier Daily

The City of Charlottesville announced Monday evening that it is denying Jason Kessler’s permit application to hold an event in Emancipation Park on the one-year anniversary of the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” rally

Kessler organized the August rally, which attracted white nationalist groups and left three dead and dozens injured.

The city also denied four other permit applications submitted by four separate people for the same weekend. City Counilor Bob Fenwick, Assoc. Education Prof. Walt Heinecke, Brian Lambert and M.A. Shurtleff all applied to use various parks in downtown Charlottesville.

The notice said that Kessler’s event would “present a danger to public safety, and cannot be accommodated within the area applied for, or within a reasonable allocation of City funds” or police resources. 

“The application likely underestimates the number of participants,” the notice said. “The applicant requests that police keep ‘opposing sides’ separate and that police ‘leave’ a ‘clear path into event without threat of violence,’ but the city does not have the ability to determine or sort individuals according to what ‘side’ they are on and no reasonable allocation of City funds or resources can guarantee that event participants will be free of any ‘threat of violence.’”

The city also denied the permit because Kessler applied to use Emancipation Park from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., and the park cannot be used before 1 p.m. on Sundays. In addition, the city’s decision said the application did not include a person or legal entity willing to accept responsibility and be held accountable for the behavior of event attendees. 

Kessler responded to the city’s decision on his Twitter account Monday evening, stating that the rally would still be happening Aug. 11 and 12, 2018, in “Charlottesville’s Lee Park,” which the park was called prior to be renamed as Emancipation Park. 

“The *initial* permit decision is bogus,” Kessler tweeted. “The rationale they give for denying it almost makes it seem like they want me to win. See you guys in court!”

Kessler filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city last summer when the city announced Kessler’s permit application would only be approved if the rally was held in McIntire Park. Kessler was ultimately granted a preliminary injunction, and the rally was allowed to remain in Emancipation Park. 

Law enforcement declared the rally an unlawful assembly just before noon Aug. 12, and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) declared a state of emergency in response to the rally.

The rally turned deadly when police say 20-year-old Ohio resident James Alex Fields, Jr. drove a car into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 35 others. Fields currently faces numerous felony charges, including second-degree murder.

Additionally, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates were killed when a Virginia State Police helicopter that was assisting law enforcement crashed near the Birdwood Golf Course. 

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