White Nationalist Rally's Charlottesville Permit Bid Dropped as Organizer Focuses on D.C.

Demonstrators carry confederate and Nazi flags during the Unite the Right free speech rally at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017. (Emily Molli/NurPhoto/Sipa via AP Images)

The white nationalist rally that led to the death of a counterprotester in Charlottesville last August won’t return to the Virginia city next month — at least not as an officially permitted event.

“Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler was denied a permit earlier this year to hold an anniversary rally in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park. “The proposed demonstration or special event will present a danger to public safety, and cannot be accommodated within the area applied for, or within a reasonable allocation of City funds and/or police resources,” City Manager Maurice Jones wrote in the denial.

Charlottesville also denied permits for four related planned events near the park on Aug. 12. Kessler filed a lawsuit over the denials.

After arriving 45 minutes late to court today, Kessler quickly withdrew his permit request. Acting City Attorney Lisa Robertson noted that “he has not yet dismissed the lawsuit, just his request for the court to order a permit.”

His lawyer is James Kolenich, a Cincinnati attorney who represented neo-Nazis charged during last year’s protests and told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he questions whether the Holocaust happened and asserted that his “willingness to get involved is to oppose Jewish influence in society.” Outside the courtroom, Kolenich told reporters that’s he an avowed “anti-Semite” and called the pope a “clown.”

Kolenich said, and Kessler tweeted, that the focus would shift to the Aug. 11-12 rally planned across from the White House.

Kessler’s application was approved by the National Park Service, and organizers are reportedly going to meet with NPS officials next week to work out the rally logistics. A counterprotest in D.C. is planned beginning Aug. 10 and running through Aug. 12; a simultaneous demonstration is planned in Charlottesville on Aug. 11-12.

“Our lives were forever changed on August 12, 2017, when neo-Nazis, KKK and militia members, and Alt-Right trolls from across the US and North America converged on the town of Charlottesville, Virginia,” organizers said on the counterprotest call to action. “White supremacists lit torches and attacked students as young as 17 last year while the police looked on and did nothing. The next day, people bravely confronted hundreds of armed racists. In the ensuing confrontation, one person gave her life, and many more were scarred forever. Tens of thousands immediately took to the streets. Suddenly the world would never be the same.”

James Alex Fields Jr., who had traveled from Ohio to march with the white nationalists, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer after plowing his car into counterprotesters. The evening before the rally, the white supremacists held a tiki torch march on the University of Virginia campus chanting slogans such as “Jews will not replace us.”

An independent review of the violence in Charlottesville commissioned by city officials found in December that there were multiple failures of law enforcement that day including sluggish response to the events, a lack of coordination between agencies, and a lack of police presence where Fields’ car plowed into counterprotesters, who were marching on a side street away from the white nationalists.

“Because of their misalignment and lack of accessible protective gear, officers failed to intervene in physical altercations that took place in areas adjacent to Emancipation Park,” the report said. Charlottesville police “instructed their officers not to intervene in all but the most serious physical confrontations.”

The city of Charottesville said in a statement today that they will “evaluate the pending event requests for Market Street Park to consider whether they can safely be permitted during August 10-12, 2018.”