Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler settled a lawsuit with a consent decree in the Charlottesville Circuit Court Thursday, agreeing not to solicit armed groups to return to Charlottesville. He is also ordered to use “best efforts” to prevent armed groups from coming to Charlottesville, among other directions.
The lawsuit — filed in October by Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection on behalf of Charlottesville businesses, the City and other parties against armed groups from the Unite the Right rally last August — sought to prevent the mobilization of private militia groups. It was originally set to culminate in a trial on July 30, but has concluded now that every defendant has signed a consent decree — a settlement tool used in legal disputes that allow for parties to make concessions without admitting guilt. A violation of the order could lead to the party being held in contempt of court.
The consent decrees do not ban all named individuals from returning to Charlottesville with weapons. Restrictions are placed only on individuals coming to the City in groups of two or more.
On July 7, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard Moore allowed the trial to proceed, writing in his opinion that most businesses had standing for suing the militias. In his opinion, Moore said defendants bound by the consent decree are still allowed to protest in Charlottesville.
“Individual defendants will still be able to come exercise their free speech rights, and assemble with each other, as well as carry a firearm, so long as such is openly carried (unless the person has a concealed weapon permit), and not concealed or brandished or used in a threatening way,” Moore wrote.
The antifascist community defense group Redneck Revolt also signed a consent decree Thursday, though its terms were significantly simpler — the group is simply banned from returning armed to Charlottesville as a group.
The consent decree signed Thursday orders Kessler to publicly state in all promotional materials for the anniversary rally that groups should not come with weapons and to request that any individuals who do not comply with these terms leave. Kessler is also prohibited from teaching groups to use weapons knowing they would be used at a demonstration in Charlottesville and commanding armed groups to use weapons at a demonstration at Charlottesville.
Kessler is preparing for an anniversary rally in either Charlottesville or Washington, D.C. — or both — on Aug. 11 and 12. When his permit application for Charlottesville was denied, Kessler in a separate suit.
A federal judge will rule on a motion to force the City to grant Kessler the permit on July 30, according to court records.