Kessler settles lawsuit over Unite the Right rally

Published: Jul. 12, 2018 at 2:24 PM EDT
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The organizer of last year's Unite the Right rally resolved a lawsuit filed against him by the city of Charlottesville and local businesses, saying there will be no repeat of last year's events.

According to a release from the Georgetown Law's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection — which filed the suit — Jason Kessler entered a consent decree that said he promises to not facilitate organized, armed paramilitary activity at future rallies within the city.

The lawsuit was originally filed against Kessler and numerous paramilitary-type groups such as Redneck Revolt.

At this time, all of the defendants who were originally sued have signed decrees saying they will not return to Charlottesville as coordinated armed groups to participate in rallies or other events.

Redneck Revolt leaders signed the decree on Tuesday, making Kessler the last defendant to agree to be bound by the court-enforceable decrees on Wednesday.

Kessler agreed to actively discourage armed paramilitary activity at future events.

"Should Kessler hold an anniversary rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, as he has vowed to do, these court orders ensure that he and other participants will not repeat the organized and intimidating displays of paramilitary power that led to chaos, fear and violent confrontations in the city streets last year," said Mary McCord, senior litigator at ICAP and the lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

This lawsuit was originally filed on Oct. 12 and relied on state laws, that require "all displays of military power to be under strict subordination to civil authorities and prohibit private paramilitary activity and the usurpation of the role of law enforcement."

ICAP amended the lawsuit complaint to detail how a lot of the violence that occurred during the Unite the Right rally had been planned and arranged in advance of the event through social media and private channels.

Organizers, including Kessler and Elliott Kline, reportedly solicited alt-right attendees to form military-style shield walls and invited private militias to provide security at the rally at Emancipation Park. The attendees also reportedly were told to "prepare for war."

The release said this means there are a total of 19 consent decrees and another four default judgments that are expected to be filed soon in court, ending the lawsuit.

Under these decrees, the people and groups sued will be permanently enjoined — or prohibited — from returning to Charlottesville "as part of a unit of two or more persons acting in concert while armed with a firearm, weapon, shield, or any item whose purpose is to inflict bodily harm, at any demonstration, rally, protest, or march."

All of the defendants can still attend rallies and exercise their right to free speech, but they cannot come as an organized and armed group intent on using force or projecting the ability to use force to do so.

Under the state's open-carry law, individuals can still arm themselves for the purpose of self-defense, but these defendants cannot coordinate armed activity with each other during such events.

According to a statement posted on Redneck Revolt's webpage, the organization has decided to donate the money that would have been spent on a trial to the Charlottesville Community Resilience Fund.

Kessler did request a permit to hold an anniversary rally in the city, but it was denied. He then sued the city, and that case will be in court on July 24.

He has also applied for a permit to hold a rally in Washington, D.C. — which the National park Service has given preliminary approval.

People are prohibited from openly carrying weapons in the nation's capital, and even people with concealed-carry permits cannot have a firearm in certain areas, like the National Mall and the White House.