The organizer of last year’s violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia insists that he will be hosting an anniversary rally this August — despite other white nationalist groups wanting nothing to do with it.
Jason Kessler — who called murdered activist Heather Heyer a “fat, disgusting Communist” — applied for a permit to have an anniversary mach last November but was denied by the city of Charlottesville on the grounds of public safety. In March, Kessler filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming it was denying his First Amendment rights.
On Thursday, Kessler reiterated his claim, saying on white nationalist Jean Francois Gariépy’s podcast that he would set up shop in front of the White House if his lawsuit against Charlottesville fails.
“I do have a backup plan, for people who have been asking, and that is going to be in front of the White House,” he said. “If Charlottesville denies our permit for any reason, it’s not safe, we’re going to get in vans and we’re going to go to Lafayette Park in front of the White House.”
But while Kessler may be desperate to rediscover his 15 minutes of fame, other white nationalists aren’t so keen to return to the rally. Speaking to Newsweek, numerous far-right leaders disavowed any notion of returning to Charlottesville. Prominent young white supremacist Richard Spencer said he “won’t likely attend” a second rally, while Neo-Nazi podcaster Mike “Enoch” Peinovich said he had “no plans to attend this rally.”
“After the unfortunate events and the violent attacks we suffered, I am reluctant to return to Charlottesville,” Peinovich said. “I hope the event, if it happens, is peaceful and that antifa thugs do no disrupt it with violence as they did the last one.”
While Peinovich and other white nationalists may blame “antifa thugs” and threats of violence for not wanting to attend a new Charlottesville rally, the reality is that, ever since last year’s attempt to “unite the right,” the far-right has been has been in a state of near-constant disarray.
In the immediate aftermath of the rally, web companies finally started taking action against the white supremacy that had been allowed to fester on their platforms. The Daily Stormer, for instance, was dropped by domain provider GoDaddy for inciting violence in the wake of the rally, and has since bounced around the internet looking for a permanent home. Spencer’s fundraising efforts have collapsed, his legal counsel deserted him and, this week, he even had his credit card declined when he tried to buy a $4.25 shot of bourbon.
Meanwhile, the far-right’s leadership is in similarly dire straits. Andrew Anglin, who runs the Daily Stormer, has been in hiding for months in an attempt to avoid being served notices over several lawsuits against him. Matthew Heimbach, former leader of the Traditionalist Worker’s Party was arrested in Indiana in March after assaulting his father-in-law when he discovered Heimbach was having an affair with his mother-in-law. Chris Cantwell, the “crying Nazi” who became infamous after the Unite the Right rally, claimed in March that he was now a FBI informant.
In Charlottesville, sentences have finally begun to trickle down for the white nationalists involved in the violence last year. On Tuesday, a KKK leader who fired a gun at the rally pleaded guilty to illegally firing a weapon, and now faces up to 10 years in prison. Last week, white supremacist Jacob Scott Goodwin was found guilty of beating a young black man in a Charlottesville parking garage, with the jury recommending 10 years in prison.
“Charlottesville was going to be this big event, and we knew it would be,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Marilyn Mayo previously told ThinkProgress. “But… it was kind of a false sense of unity… It was right after Charlottesville that you had people being doxxed, websites being kicked off their servers, making people question whether they should be part of the alt-right.”