Charlottesville Rally Organizer Plans ‘White Civil Rights’ March Near White House
Posted June 21, 2018 5:32 p.m. EDT
Updated June 21, 2018 5:36 p.m. EDT
An organizer of a white supremacist rally last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one woman died plans to hold a march across the street from the White House on the rally’s anniversary in August, federal officials said on Thursday.
The National Park Service has approved an application for a permit from the organizer, Jason Kessler, for an event on Aug. 11 and 12 that he described as a “white civil rights rally” for 400 people at Lafayette Park in Washington. Kessler submitted the permit request May 8 and it was granted the next day, but he has not yet received final approval because the Park Service has asked for additional logistical details about the rally, a spokesman said.
“The process itself is no different from anything else,” Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said in an interview Thursday, referring to permit review. “The Park Service is content neutral when it comes to these sort of decisions.”
Kessler was one of several white nationalists who organized the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last August, which drew hundreds of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen and others, and quickly turned violent.
On the night of Aug. 11, they marched through the University of Virginia campus, brandishing torches and shouting anti-Semitic chants. The next day, they clashed with counterprotesters in the streets of Charlottesville in a confrontation that ultimately led to the death of Heather D. Heyer, 32, a counterprotester who was killed when a man drove into a crowd.
In December, city officials in Charlottesville denied a permit request from Kessler, as well as counterprotesters, to hold a rally on the anniversary because of public safety concerns. Kessler sued Charlottesville over its decision. In messages to his followers on Twitter, he vowed to find a new home for a march in August.
The purpose of the Washington rally, Kessler wrote in his permit application, is to protest “civil rights abuse in Charlottesville.” Kessler did not immediately return an email seeking comment Thursday morning.
In his permit, he asked for law enforcement assistance, writing that the attendees would gather at a place convenient for officers and would march next to them to Lafayette Park to give speeches.
Representatives from the White House did not return a request for comment on Thursday.
As the Park Service considers final approval, it has asked for more details about the logistics of the event, including how the attendees would arrive, the route for their march and how organizers can ensure the public’s safety. Litterst said the questions were standard for a permit request in Washington, except that park officials were placing an extra emphasis on public safety.
“For a First Amendment demonstration like this, once it’s been approved, I can’t say it’s never been denied at this point but I haven’t been aware of anything,” Litterst said.