Jason Kessler, the organizer of last year’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally, tried to use PayPal to raise funds for an anniversary demonstration — despite saying the money would be used for “legal defense” funds.
After the violence at last year’s rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Big Tech began a swift crackdown on fundraising sites that were supporting white nationalists. PayPal said in a statement that they’d work to ensure that their services “are not used to accept payments or donations for activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance.” Meanwhile, Richard Spencer was booted off both MakerSupport and Funded Justice, and just last week, PayPal banned the prominent far-right channel YouTube Red Ice.
But despite their involvement with Unite the Right, both Kessler and neo-Nazi Chris Cantwell were able to get around PayPal’s white nationalist ban by channeling their fundraising through a far-right friendly law office in California. As ThinkProgress revealed in June, Zyniker Law Firm allowed users to donate, via PayPal, to support Kessler and Cantwell’s “activism.”
PayPal spokesperson Kim Eichorn told ThinkProgress at the time that “PayPal has a long-standing policy to allow fundraising for legal defense purposes, so long as the account holder has a pending trial or appeal in process.”
“In reviewing the solicitation, this activity is currently compliant with PayPal Acceptable Use Policy,” Eichorn added. “If we learn that funds are used for anything other than legal defense that is guided by the soliciting law firm, the accounts will be subject to immediate closure.”
However, chat logs obtained by Mediaite show Kessler listing bus rentals, sound equipment, and airline tickets for speakers as areas his supporters needed to help fundraise for via Zyniker Law. “We can’t use normie fundraising apps,” one far-right activist said in the chat on May 20, 2018. “That would get taken down to (sic) quick.”
The PayPal site remained active into July, when it disappeared without explanation. A spokesperson confirmed to Mediaite that the account associated with Zyniker Law and Jason Kessler had been closed. “If we learn that funds are used for anything other than legal defense that is guided by the soliciting law firm, an account will be subject to immediate closure,” they said. Kessler is now solely reliant upon cash and check donations to raise money .
— Deplatform Hate (@deplatformhate) July 22, 2018
The bad news for Kessler doesn’t end there either. Earlier this week, he abruptly dropped his lawsuit against the city of Charlottesville for the right to host an anniversary rally. The city had refused to grant him a permit, and Kessler was suing, but he withdrew his lawsuit on Tuesday after appearing in court for just one minute. Kessler has received a permit for a rally across from the White House on August 12. But he’s also had a series of fallings-out with other far-right figures — including Chris Cantwell — making it likely that even if another Unite the Right rally occurs, it will be sparsely attended.