Jason Kessler organized the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. It was the largest white nationalist rally in decades, and it was violent, leaving three dead and many injured. Counterprotester Heather Heyer was killed when a neo-Nazi plowed into the crowd with his car, and two police officers died in a helicopter crash monitoring the events.
But Kessler's fighting for the right to do it again, with an anniversary rally. The City of Charlottesville rejected his request for a permit, so Kessler sued, and on Tuesday he'll appear in court to ask for an injunction. If it's approved, Charlottesville could be forced to issue a permit.
Kessler, 34, lives in Charlottesville, and, according to allegations in court papers, has been employed twice in the last seven years, for five months each time. His website says that before he got into activism, Kessler "did various working class jobs from dishwasher and gym technician to truck driver and handyman."
He wasn't always a far-right activist. Kessler says he attended one Occupy Wall Street event, and voted for Barack Obama. But in early 2016, Kessler became interested in white identity politics, and later that year, launched a fight against an African-American member of the Charlottesville city council. He attended a tiki torch rally in Charlottesville in May 2017 that was a kind of preview of his own.
The Unite the Right rally was hyped across the white supremacist internet. But Kessler's support dissolved quickly.
He was denounced for a crass tweet about the counterprotester who died in Charlottesville, and he fought with alt-right leaders over his decision to hold a press conference, alone, the day after the rally. (He was chased by a mob.) Then he fought with co-organizer Eli Mosley over planning, optics, and whether he might secretly be Jewish.
Various alt-right leaders have warned others to stay away from Unite the Right 2. That includes Chris Cantwell, who's been banned from the state of Virginia for five years after pleading guilty to assault and battery a few days ago. "Jason is completely incapable of handling this, and it's way too fucking dangerous," Cantwell said.
This segment originally aired July 23, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.