The primary organizer of the violent Unite the Right rally last August has agreed to not return to Charlottesville, Va. as part of a coordinated and armed group.
Kessler was the last remaining defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by the city of Charlottesville, along with several downtown businesses and neighborhood associations. Other defendants who had previously settled included an array of alt-right white supremacists groups and patriot militia groups.
In the order filed today, Kessler agrees to refrain from “returning or soliciting other individuals or groups to return to Charlottesville, Virginia, 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.”
The consent decree also enjoins Kessler from “instructing or facilitating the instruction of individuals or groups in the use of any weapon or technique capable of causing injury or death” for intended application during any demonstrations in Charlottesville, and from “issuing any commands, instructions, or directives to two or more people armed with” weapons planning to attend demonstrations in the city.
Redneck Revolt, an armed, anti-racist community defense organization, was also a defendant in the lawsuit. During the Unite the Right rally, which took place at Emancipation Park, Redneck Revolt members armed with assault rifles maintained a defensive line at nearby Justice Park, which was used by anti-racists activists as both a staging area and a place of respite. On Tuesday, Redneck Revolt also signed a consent decree agreeing not return to Charlottesville as a paramilitary unit.
The consent decree states that “Redneck Revolt and its chapters, branches, and the John Brown Gun Clubs; and their directors, officers, members and successors, are hereby permanently enjoined from returning to Charlottesville, Virginia, as part of a unit of two or more persons acting in concert while armed with a firearm, weapon, shield, or any other item whose purpose is to inflict bodily harm, at any demonstration, rally, protest, or march.”
Virginia is an open-carry state, and the agreement clarifies that “nothing in this consent decree shall be construed to infringe the right to self-defense or defense of others as recognized under Virginia law.”
The lawsuit had been scheduled to go to trial on July 30. In a July 7 opinion allowing the lawsuit to go forward, Judge Richard E. Moore wrote, “No one is being denied their right to speak, to assemble and protest, or even to bear firearms. But when a group comes as a unit, in uniform, with military or law enforcement weapons, equipment, tactics and appearance, under a clear chain of command authority, looking like the police or military, and they are neither a part of nor subject to the local, state, or federal military or police, and are subject to neither, this is a legitimate concerns and question as to whether they may, in a specific situation, do so.”
In a statement issued today, the anti-racist militia network said, “We in Redneck Revolt recognize the consent decree does not alter our core principle of community defense, or lessen the commitment we hold to show up for each other and our communities. Rather than continue to spend energy and resources on a trial where the state’s preferred outcome is clearly predetermined, we are choosing to end the litigation and focus our energies on the many important fights ahead.”
Meanwhile, Kessler is organizing a Unite the Right anniversary rally in Washington DC on Aug. 12, and has also discussed the possibility of rally in Charlottesville on the same day, but the Charlottesville portion remains mired in a court battle over whether the city is obliged to issue a permit to Kessler.
A federal judge in a separate lawsuit against Kessler and other alt-right defendants ruled on Monday that plaintiffs “plausibly alleged the defendants formed a conspiracy to commit the racial violence that led to the plaintiffs’ varied injuries.”