The organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, Jason Kessler, wants to hold another one on the anniversary in the same place, but the city has denied a permit based on what happened the first time. He says if he doesn’t get the courts to force an approval for the permit, they’ll hold the rally across from the White House instead.
He then told Gariépy that he has a backup plan 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. So, 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,” Kessler said.
Kessler said he anticipates a ruling in his lawsuit in July but in the meantime, people who wish to participate should book hotel rooms mid-way between Charlottesville and Washington.
I do expect them to win the lawsuit over this, though. The standard that must be met for refusing such a permit is very, very high, and it should be. That standard is that the event must pose a threat of “imminent violence.” But let’s turn this around a bit, and we don’t need a hypothetical to do it because there are many examples of this actually taking place when it was the good guys whose right to public protest was being denied.
During the civil rights movement, the KKK and other groups often tried to prevent protests by engaging in violence. The purpose was twofold — to intimidate people into not showing up and to force the local government to deny permits for such rallies. The cities and counties would then try to prevent the protests by citing the potential for violence (or the cost of police protection, or both). The courts ended up saying that this was not an acceptable basis for denying a permit except under the most narrow of circumstances. After all, it is the job of the government to protect the rights of the protesters. This is where the concept of the heckler’s veto comes from.