Jason Kessler

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Jason Eric Kessler (born September 22, 1983) is an American white nationalist and alt-right activist. [4] [5] [6] He is known for being the main organizer of the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia which resulted in one death after a car was driven into a crowd of counter-protestors of the rally. [8] [10] [12]

Background

Jason Kessler graduated from UVA with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2009. Prior to his involvement in political activism, Kessler was employed in various working class jobs as a dishwasher, gym technician, truck driver and handyman. [13]

In late 2015 Kessler started his original blog JasonKessler.net. [14] The site was used to publish a work of fiction, Badland Blues, as well as a work of poetry, Midnight Road. [15] [16]

In November 2016, he revealed lewd and offensive tweets made by Charlottesville vice-mayor and councilman Wes Bellamy. Bellamy, who is also a teacher at Charlottesville’s Albemarle High School, first drew criticism from Kessler when he called a press conference to call for the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville in March 2016. In December, Kessler began circulating a petition demanding that Bellamy resign or be removed from office. [17] During the ensuing investigations, Bellamy voluntarily resigned from his teaching position at Albemarle High School in December 2016. [18]

In January 2017, while attempting to gain signatures for his petition Kessler was arrested for misdemeanor assault after punching a man in the face. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service. [19]

One anonymous source claimed that he was involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement and previously supported President Barack Obama. People who know Kessler have confirmed that he previously voted for Democrats. [4]

In April 2017 Kessler was contracted to write two pieces for the right-wing outlet the Daily Caller. [21] He wrote another piece in May about the first protests in Charlottesville over the statue of Lee. [21] Kessler has also written several posts for the anti-immigrant white nationalist site VDare. [21] One of Kessler's posts claimed that the government was waging genocide against white people. [21]

After ProPublica contacted the Daily Caller pointing out Kessler's ties to white supremacist groups, the outlet severed its ties with Kessler, and its Executive Editor Paul Conner defended his editorial judgment. [4]

Kessler was sworn in as a member of the far right organization the Proud Boys. [4] Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes said that he kicked Kessler out of the group once his views on race become known. [24]

Unite The Right rally

File:Federal Judge Rules Unite the Right WILL Happen in Lee Park!!.webm
Video posted to YouTube by Kessler on August 11, 2017 after obtaining permission for the Unite the Right rally
File:Government Officials Set a Trap for Unite the Right.webm
Video posted to YouTube by Kessler on August 12, 2017 after the rally.

Kessler was one of the organizers of the Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017. The rally was a protest of the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee, a cause Kessler had taken up a year earlier when began his crusade against Bellamy. Kessler was also involved in a smaller protest of the removal of the statue on May 14, 2017 which ended in a torch lit march. At this event he was arrested for failure to obey an officer's commands. [5] On July 11, Kessler appeared at town hall to promote his rally, but also distance himself from another rally that was held by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. [5]

On July 25, Kessler and most speakers scheduled to attend the rally were described by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as alt-right leaders. The ADL's director said that Kessler was listed because of both his statements and his activities. [27] Kessler responded by calling the ADL hypocritical for "attacking uppity whites when they support the ethno-state of Israel" and saying he was "happy to be considered the enemy of the ADL". [27]

On August 7, the City Manager attempted to change the location of the rally, away from Emancipation Park towards McIntire Park. The city manager confirmed that Kessler had a First Amendment right to protest but stressed the city's need to protect public safety. [28] On August 10, the Rutherford Institute and the Virginia state branch of the ACLU supported Kessler in an injunction lawsuit, later known as Kessler v City of Charlottesville, in the United States District Court. They pointed out that "Two other groups that oppose Kessler’s message, which have called on thousands of protesters to attend, have been granted permits by the City for downtown parks close to Emancipation Park on August 12." Arguments were heard in Judge Glen Conrad's courtroom on the afternoon of August 11. The court enjoined the City from revoking Kessler's permit to conduct a demonstration at Emancipation Park on August 12, and the rally went ahead. [29]

The rally on August 12 turned violent and resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, when one of the rally attendees drove at high speed into a crowd of counter-protestors several blocks from the rally. [10] [12] On the day following the rally Kessler attempted to hold a news conference in front of Charlottesville city hall which was quickly overtaken by protesters. However, before ending the short news conference Kessler stated "I disavow any political violence and what happened yesterday was tragic." He also posted videos online in which he blames the city for the violence and death. [30]

On August 18, 2017, Kessler contradicted his previous statement by tweeting "Heather Heyer was a fat, disgusting Communist. Communists have killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback time." The next morning Kessler repudiated the tweet and blamed Ambien, Xanax, and alcohol for the tweet. He received criticism for the tweet from other white nationalists including Richard B. Spencer and Tim Gionet. Kessler subsequently deleted his Twitter account. [32]

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