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Jason Kessler, Charlottesville organizer, ends lawsuit brought against city over rally permit

August 3, 2018

Jason Kessler, the principal organizer of last summer’s deadly “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, is no longer suing the city for refusing to grant him a permit to protest on the event’s anniversary, attorneys said Thursday.

Lawyers representing both sides in Mr. Kessler’s lawsuit against the city signed a stipulation of voluntary dismissal filed in Charlottesville federal court, effectively bringing his case to a close nearly a year since the Aug. 12 rally infamously culminated in violence involving participants including neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

A self-described “white civil rights activist,” Mr. Kessler sued Charlottesville and its city manager, Maurice Jones, in March for rejecting a special events permit application he filed with officials in hopes of holding another demonstration on the anniversary of last year’s rally, accusing them of violating his constitutional rights to freedom of speech, assembly and petition.

He subsequently asked a federal court judge to grant an injunction overriding Charlottesville’s denial, but abruptly withdrew that request last week and said he would concentrate instead on coordinating a “white civil rights” rally Aug. 12 outside the White House.

Neither Mr. Kessler nor representatives for Charlottesville immediately returned messages seeking comment on his suit’s dismissal.

Billed as a rally held in support of a Confederate statue, “Unite the Right” quickly descended into chaos amid clashes erupting on the morning of the event between far-right participants and counterprotesters.

Two police officers died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the violence, and Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, was killed after an “Unite the Right” participant allegedly drove an automobile into a crowd of counterprotesters, according to prosecutors.

In denying Mr. Kessler’s application to hold a rally next week, Mr. Jones previously said the proposed event “presents a danger to public safety and it cannot be accommodated within a reasonable allocation of city funds and/or police resources.”

Attorneys for Mr. Kessler disputed the city manager’s assertion and claimed in court that Charlottesville was “suppressing Mr. Kessler’s speech” on account of its content.

In a disposition filed as part of Mr. Kessler’s lawsuit, Mr. Jones countered that politics “had no bearing on me approving the permits last year, and denying the permit this year, it’s all based on public safety and what we thought we could handle.”

“Their message wasn’t what concerned me, it was the violence that concerned me, and the public safety issues associated with that violence,” he said.

The National Park Service has approved Mr. Kessler’s application to hold a “white civil rights” rally on Aug. 12 at Lafayette Park, directly north of the White House, but has not yet issued a permit, a NPS spokesperson told The Washington Times this week.

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