(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Jason Kessler organized the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last weekend to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee Statue from Emancipation Park. Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones told Kessler the event could not be held at Emancipation Park because he feared clashes between rally attendees and protesters, so Kessler was told to move the event to McIntire Park.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Rutherford Institute, both left-leaning organizations, came out in defense of Kessler’s right to hold a rally at Emancipation Park. Critics said the ACLU and Rutherford Institute were defending Neo-Nazis but Kessler disagrees.
Kessler, who founded the nonprofit Unity & Security for America, describes himself as pro-white and has rejected the label white supremacist. His group’s website, which is no longer accessible, advocates for Western values.
“Unity & Security for America takes an America First approach to defending Western Civilization including its history, culture, principles and peoples,” the website read, according to Business Insider. “We believe that rampant immigration is bursting our civilization at its seams. Unnecessary foreign interventions and attacks on Western history and heritage are detrimental to the survival of the tradition which brought us reason, logic, medicine, human rights and took us into outer space.”
Kessler insists his rally was not an attempt to incite violence but to stand up for white peoples’ rights. He tweeted a video from white-nationalist Richard Spencer to prove that the Robert E. Lee statue removal protesters were there peacefully. Police came in riot gear to escalate tensions, according to Kessler.
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted about the media’s narrative on Charlottesville.
Kessler has repeatedly stated that it’s hypocritical for the country to praise pro-black groups like the NAACP but call all pro-white individuals “Nazis.”
“We’re trying to do a pro-white demonstration,” he said. “We’re trying to show that folks can stand up for white people. The political correctness has gotten way out of control, and the only way to fight back against it has been to stand up for our own interests.”
John W. Whitehead from the Rutherford Institute placed blame on the left and right for the violence on Saturday, but he also sided with Kessler in the belief that the police did not fully protect citizens’ life and property.
“For whatever reason—which only the police and government officials are privy to—the police failed to do their job at the Charlottesville demonstration, a charge levied by both the Alt Right and the counter-demonstrators,” Whitehead wrote.
Multiple accounts of the violence in Charlottesville show that the police did not intervene between protesters and counter-protesters.
“In fact, as the Washington Post reports, police ‘seemed to watch as groups beat each other with sticks and bludgeoned one another with shields… At one point, police appeared to retreat and then watch the beatings before eventually moving in to end the free-for-all, make arrests and tend to the injured,’” Whitehead wrote.
“There was no police presence,” a peaceful activist explained. “We were watching people punch each other; people were bleeding all the while police were inside of barricades at the park, watching. It was essentially just brawling on the street and community members trying to protect each other.”
Whitehead’s article contains numerous examples like this, and he gives constructive methods for how police and protesters should behave next time in order to avoid violence.
Kessler maintains that Charlottesville’s Mayor, Mike Signer, purposefully allowed violence.
Signer, on the other hand, says the violence occurred because the police could not contain the situation at Emancipation Park like they could have at McIntire Park.
But Whitehead asserts that Charlottesville police should have been prepared for any tension between protesters and counter-protesters.
“Despite the fact that 1,000 first responders (including 300 state police troopers and members of the National Guard)—many of whom had been preparing for the downtown rally for months—had been called on to work the event, despite the fact that police in riot gear surrounded Emancipation Park on three sides, and despite the fact that Charlottesville had had what reporter David Graham referred to as “a dress rehearsal of sorts” a month earlier when 30 members of the Ku Klux Klan were confronted by 1000 counter-protesters, police failed to do their jobs,” he wrote.
The question now is whether the police have the ability and the will to protect protesters during planned rallies. In Charlottesville, and on college campuses across the country, the answer appears to be no. The heckler’s veto has increased as city officials and college administrators will simply move protests to shirk the responsibility of keeping the public safe.
On Monday, a group of protesters toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina, while the police sat on their hands, according to Fox News.
Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews praised his deputies for their work.
“My deputies showed great restraint and respect for the constitutional rights of the group expressing their anger and disgust for recent events in our country. Racism and incivility have no place in our country or Durham,” he said.
He added that he will not ignore the “criminal conduct” of some of the protesters.
This is likely the hypocrisy that Kessler has pointed out.
While the media continues to place sole blame for the violence in Charlottesville on white nationalists, the KKK, and Neo-Nazis, Kessler maintains his rally was meant to be peaceful, if only the police had done their jobs.