CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP/WCAV) — The lead organizer of a 2017 white nationalist rally that ended in violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, has filed another lawsuit claiming his First Amendment rights were violated.
Image of Jason Kessler's press conference the day after the deadly 'Unite the Right' rally | WHSV file video
The Daily Progress reports the federal lawsuit was filed Monday by Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler. He voluntarily dismissed an earlier suit that made similar claims.
The new suit claims police and city officials violated his free speech rights.
In addition to the city, the lawsuit names current City Manager Tarron Richardson, former City Manager Maurice Jones, former Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas and Virginia State Police Lieutenant Becky Crannis-Curl.
Unlike previous complaints, Kessler focuses on the antifacist group known as Antifa. He claims police inaction allowed antifascists to effectively prevent him and others from expressing themselves.
In an email, Kessler says he initially withdrew the lawsuit for "tactical reasons" but did not elaborate. He re-filed the new suit with a second plaintiff, David Parrott of Indiana.
Legal analyst Scott Goodman says the refiled lawsuit is stronger than the original because it draws information from the report on Aug. 11 and 12 by former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy. That report includes specific accounts of city officials’ behavior, and Goodman says there’s other information from the report in the suit as well.
"They also have additional witnesses that have come forward and are quoted in the lawsuit that refer to specific instances where people who were trying to exercise their First Amendment right to protest were denied assistance by the police when they asked for it," Goodman said.
He says the suit is not a frivolous claim because the First Amendment protects the right to protest even if the views of protesters are reprehensible.
"The question for this lawsuit to answer is whether or not these plaintiffs were denied their rights to protest because the government decided deliberately to deny them that right because of the political content of their speech or was it just mere incompetence," Goodman said.
A city spokesperson declined to comment on the pending litigation.
White nationalists were protesting the proposed removal of a Confederate statue when violent clashes with counterprotesters erupted.
An avowed white supremacist, James Alex Fields Jr., drove his car into counterprotesters, killing a woman and injuring others.