White nationalist rally planner sues city of Charlottesville over permit denial

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The white supremacist organizer of the Unite the Right rally has filed a lawsuit claiming the city violated his constitutional rights by denying him a permit for an event this coming summer on Aug. 11 and 12.


Jason Kessler's suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Charlottesville, names the City of Charlottesville and City Manager Maurice Jones. It alleges the defendants violated Kessler's First Amendment right to free speech and his 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

"The defendants' denial of Plaintiff's permit was based on his viewpoint and was not necessary to achieve any compelling government interest," the suit reads.

Legal analyst Scott Goodman says city leaders will likely fight any requests from Kessler or other white nationalist groups after the deadly Unite the Right rally last summer.

Goodman says the city may not have to grant the permit for the requested date and location, but he says the suit has legal merit.

"He is going to get a permit and there will be another demonstration in the City of Charlottesville at some point in 2018 because [Kessler] has a right to assemble and petition his government," Goodman said. "The courts will grant him that at some point."

Kessler's suit also asks for compensatory damages to be determined at trial and attorney's fees.

Kessler is represented in this case by Elmer Woodard, the attorney who is also representing several men charged with crimes immediately before and after the Unite the Right rally.

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