RICHMOND, Va. — An organizer of a White nationalist rally that erupted in violence in Virginia last summer has agreed to “actively discourage” armed paramilitary activity at any future rallies in Charlottesville, under an agreement filed in court Thursday.
The consent decree signed by Jason Kessler resolves a lawsuit brought on behalf of the city and others after a woman was killed and dozens were injured at the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” rally.
Kessler was the last defendant in the case to sign a consent decree. Nineteen others signed similar agreements earlier, said Mary McCord, senior litigator at Georgetown University’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the city, neighborhood groups and businesses in Charlottesville.
McCord said the agreements prohibit Kessler and others from participating in Charlottesville protests and rallies as “unauthorized organized armed groups using force or projecting the ability to do so.”
“The hope is that the defendants who’ve entered these consent decrees will be concerned enough about not violating them that they will either not come back at all, or if they do come back, they’ll come back without any weapons, and certainly, they won’t band together to use their weapons in an organized use of force,” McCord said.
Neither Kessler nor his attorneys returned calls seeking comment Thursday.
The Aug. 12 rally was held to protest the planned removal of a statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The event drew hundreds of white nationalists and hundreds of counterprotesters to Charlottesville.
The two sides began brawling in the streets before the rally got underway, throwing punches, unleashing chemical sprays and setting off smoke bombs. At least one person fired a gun.
Later, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when a car drove into a crowd protesting the white nationalists.
The lawsuit alleged that the White nationalist organizations weren’t functioning as individuals exercising their Second Amendment right to self-defense but as members of a “fighting force.”
A separate lawsuit pending in federal court accuses the white nationalists of violating state and federal civil rights laws.
James Alex Fields Jr., 21, of Maumee, Ohio, faces murder charges in state court and hate-crimes charges in federal court. Police say he drove his car into the crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heyer.
Hundreds of people are expected to participate in a demonstration near the White House in Washington, D.C., on the one-year anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally. The event is being planned by Kessler, who is also seeking a permit to hold an anniversary rally in Charlottesville.