Kessler wearing a Make America Great Again hat c. 2017
|Known for||Unite the Right rally|
Jason Eric Kessler (born September 22, 1983) is an American neo-Nazi, white supremacist and anti-semitic conspiracy theorist. Kessler organized the Unite the Right rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11–12, 2017 and the Unite the Right 2 rally held on August 12, 2018.
Jason Kessler graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor of arts in psychology in 2009. Prior to his involvement in political extremism, Kessler wrote that he was employed in various working class jobs as a dishwasher, gym technician, truck driver and handyman.
Up to 2008, Kessler was a supporter of Democrats and held liberal views. He had worked for Secret Strategic Services and had voted for Barack Obama during his presidential run. He also engaged in activism with the Occupy movement before being dismissed for attempting to register homeless individuals. According to a public Facebook post by former college friend, Jenny Rebecca, Kessler lived for a time in government-subsidized housing with a roommate who was described as an African Muslim.
In November 2016, he revealed lewd and offensive tweets made by Charlottesville vice-mayor and councilman Wes Bellamy, who is also a teacher at Charlottesville's Albemarle High School. Bellamy 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. During the ensuing investigations, Bellamy voluntarily resigned from his teaching position at Albemarle High School in December 2016.
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 and 30 days of suspended sentence. A charge of perjury was filed but subsequently dropped.
In April 2017, Kessler was contracted to write two pieces for The Daily Caller. He wrote another piece in May about the first protests in Charlottesville over the statue of Lee. Kessler also wrote several posts for the anti-immigrant white nationalist site VDare. One of Kessler's posts claimed that the government was waging genocide against white people by policies that cause low Caucasian birth rates.
After ProPublica contacted The Daily Caller about Kessler's ties to white supremacist groups, the outlet severed its ties with Kessler, and its Executive Editor Paul Conner defended his editorial judgment.
Kessler was sworn in as a member of the far-right organization the Proud Boys. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes said that he kicked Kessler out of the group once his views on race became known.
2017 Unite the Right 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 he 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. On July 11, Kessler appeared at town hall to promote his rally and distanced himself from another rally that was held by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
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. 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".
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. Hacker and internet troll Andrew Aurenheimer, a.k.a. Weev, later claimed that he hacked Kessler's Twitter account.
Kessler was allowed to move to Ohio in October 2018. Earlier that month, Kessler was arrested on suspicion of doxing after local anti-racist activist Emily Gorcenski was swatted and reported the incidents to the police.
On September 6, 2018, a jury in Charlottesville ordered Jeffrey Winder to pay a fine of $1 and no jail time for the misdemeanor assault charge against Kessler that took place on August 13, 2017. Winder and his attorney James Abrenio appealed his original February 2018 guilty finding, which included a 30-day jail sentence.
2018 Unite the Right rally
In November 2017, Kessler applied for a permit to hold a rally in Charlottesville in August 2018, on the anniversary of the first march. In December 2017, the city of Charlottesville denied the permit, writing that Kessler's application "likely underestimates the number of participants" and that "no reasonable allocation of city funds or resources" could guarantee a violence-free event. Kessler sued the city, and in June 2018, Kessler sought a temporary injunction from the court to permit a rally in Emancipation Park on the anniversary. On June 24, 2018, during a court hearing, Kessler unexpectedly dropped plans to hold a rally in Charlottesville, and posted plans on Twitter for a rally in Washington, D.C. On August 3, 2018, after withdrawing his request for an injunction, Kessler voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville.
Kessler later applied for and obtained a permit to hold a "Unite the Right 2" anniversary rally in Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., across from the White House. In addition to Kessler, the former politician and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was set to address the rally participants.
However, other far-right individuals and groups who participated in the first Unite the Right rally – including Richard B. Spencer, the League of the South, Christopher Cantwell, Andrew Anglin, and militia groups – indicated that they would not attend the anniversary rally, having distanced themselves from Kessler, who holds "pariah status among his fellow racists".
In late August, live stream video surfaced of Kessler in which he reveals that due to numerous lawsuits filed against him, he has moved in with his parents. Kessler's father can be heard in the video berating him and demanding that he stop recording white supremacist content in his father's room.
- Yager, Jordy (August 23, 2017). "Living Next Door to a White Supremacist". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- "White Supremacist Jason Kessler Charged with Felony Perjury". RVA Magazine. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- Thompson, A.C. (May 31, 2017). "A Few Things Got Left Out of The Daily Caller's Report on Confederate Monument Rally". propublica.org. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
- "About Jason Kessler". Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived from the original on February 16, 2018. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
[...] Kessler has sought to parlay his status as a lonely dissenter in the "Capital of the Resistance" into notoriety on the larger far right circuit by organizing a second white nationalist rally in Charlottesville after the first, torchlit rally in May 2017 made headlines.
- Jonah Engel Bromwich & Alan Blinder (August 13, 2017). "What We Know About James Alex Fields, Driver Charged in Charlottesville Killing". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 13, 2017. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
- Nick Penzenstadler (August 13, 2017). "Heather Heyer: Community mourns woman killed in Charlottesville attack". USA Today. Archived from the original on August 13, 2017. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
- Neo-Nazi Jason Kessler Lives With Parents, Gets Scolded By Dad During Livestream. August 16, 2018. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
- "'Get out of my room': 35-year-old neo-Nazi censured by father in livestream with fellow white supremacist". August 16, 2018. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
- Stanley-Becker, Isaac (August 16, 2018). "Jason Kessler's anti-Jewish screed was interrupted by his father: 'Hey, you get out of my room'". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
- "Alt-Right Turns Against 'Unite the Right' Organizer Jason Kessler, Labels Him 'Soros/Deep State Plant'". Snopes.com.
- "Alt-Right Turns Against 'Unite the Right' Organizer Jason Kessler, Labels Him 'Soros/Deep State Plant'". Snopes.com. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
- "Jason Kessler Tells Alt-Right Activists To Stay Away From Neo-Nazis At 'Unite The Right 2' | Right Wing Watch". Right Wing Watch. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
- "Meet Jason Kessler, the guy trying to lead another white nationalist rally in Charlottesville". VICE News. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
- "About Jason Kessler". October 30, 2017. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
Prior to becoming a writer and activist he did various working class jobs from dishwasher and gym technician to truck driver and handyman.
- "JasonKessler.net". December 10, 2015. Archived from the original on December 29, 2015. Retrieved October 30, 2017.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- "Group Files Petition to Have Charlottesville Vice Mayor Bellamy Recalled". WVIR News. February 16, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
- "Virginia Board of Education member resigns after vulgar tweets surface". Washington Post. December 1, 2016. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
- "Jason Kessler pleads guilty to assault charge". CBS 19 News. April 10, 2017. Retrieved August 16, 2017.
- "Update: Perjury Charge Dropped Against Jason Kessler". NBC29. March 29, 2018. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
- Hananoki, Eric (August 15, 2017). "Right-Wing Media Provided Home For White Supremacist Before He Organized Charlottesville Rally". The National Memo. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- Porter, Tom (August 12, 2017). "Who are the alt-right leaders and provocateurs addressing the Charlottesville white nationalist rally?". Newsweek. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
- Houpt, Simon (August 18, 2017). "Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes's path to the far-right frontier". Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
- "Three, including Jason Kessler, arrested during Lee Park counter-protest". The Daily Progress.
- "Kessler discusses KKK, Unite the Right rallies and his political beliefs". The Daily Progress. July 11, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
- nbc29.com: "ADL Lists Kessler, Other 'Unite The Right' Speakers as White Supremacists" Archived August 29, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, July 25, 2017
- c-ville.com: "Rally relocation: City okays permit for McIntire Park, Kessler refuses to change", August 7, 2017
- realnewsdelaware.com: "“Unite the Right” rally tomorrow in Charlottesville, VA" Archived August 16, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, August 11, 2017
- Chris Saurez (August 13, 2017). "Kessler blames city officials as news conference dissolves into chaos". The Daily Progress. Retrieved August 17, 2017.
- Porter, Tom (August 19, 2017). "Charlottesville: Jason Kessler's Account Tweets Heather Heyer Insult". Newsweek. Archived from the original on February 11, 2018. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
'Heather Heyer was a fat, disgusting Communist. Communists have killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback time,' read the tweet from the account of the blogger.
- Heim, Joe; Tsukayama, Hayley (November 9, 2017). "Twitter attacked after it verifies account of Charlottesville rally organizer". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
Less than a week after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Kessler posted a comment on Twitter about the woman who was killed when a Nazi sympathizer allegedly drove his car into a crowd of protesters. 'Heather Heyer was a fat disgusting Communist,' Kessler tweeted. 'Communists have killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback time.'[dead link]
- Matt Pearce (August 19, 2017). "Tweet from the account of Charlottesville rally organizer insults slain protester Heather Heyer". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 2, 2018. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
- Matt Novak. "Organizer of Neo-Nazi Rally Tweets That Death of Heather Heyer Was 'Payback Time'". Gizmodo. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
- Moyer, Justin (October 17, 2017). "Organizer of Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville arrested again". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
- Chappell, Bill (September 6, 2018). "Jury Fines Man $1 For Punching Charlottesville Rally Organizer". NPR. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
- Heim, Joe (December 11, 2017). "Charlottesville denies permit for event marking anniversary of supremacist rally". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
- Astor, Maggie (December 12, 2017). "White Nationalists Want to March Again. Charlottesville Says No". The New York Times. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
- Heim, Joe (June 20, 2018). "'Unite the Right' organizer gets approval for rally anniversary event in D.C." The Washington Post. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Berg, Lauren (June 23, 2018). "Organizer of white nationalist rally asks judge to allow another event in August". The Roanoake Times. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
- Christal Hayes, 'This isn't the end': Jason Kessler unexpectedly gives up bid for anniversary rally in Charlottesville, USA Today (July 24, 2018).
- Charlottesville rally organizer drops lawsuit against city, Associated Press (August 3, 2018).
- Shapira, Ian (August 10, 2018). "Inside Jason Kessler's Hate-Fueled Rise". The Washington Post.
- Haag, Matthew (June 21, 2018). "'White Civil Rights Rally' Planned Near White House by Charlottesville Organizer". The New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Peter Hermann & Joe Heim, D.C. prepares for Sunday showdown between white supremacists and counterprotesters, Washington Post (August 9, 2018).
- Noah Weiland, Before White Supremacists' Rally, Trump Does Not Condemn Them Specifically, New York Times (August 11, 2018).
- Brett Barrouquere, As "Unite the Right 2" approaches, few big names expected for rally amid lots of questions about size, speakers, Hatewatch, Southern Poverty Law Center (August 7, 2018).
- "White supremacist rally leader gets yelled at by his dad during livestream". The Hill. August 15, 2018.
- Stanley-Becker, Isaac (August 16, 2018). "Jason Kessler's anti-Jewish screed was interrupted by his father: 'Hey, you get out of my room'". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
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