Clashes between white nationalist demonstrators and anti-racist counter-protesters left one person dead and dozens injured in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend. At the Unite the Right rally, organized by Jason Kessler, a car mowed into a group of counter-protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring many more. The clashes all started because of the rally in support of a Confederate statue, and Kessler is still speaking out to defend the march.
Kessler describes himself as a freelance journalist who has written for GotNews, Daily Caller, and VDARE — all of which are conservative leaning websites. According to his Twitter bio, he is the president of Unity & Security for America, a "right-wing political advocacy group." The Southern Poverty Law Center has a webpage highlighting his history of white nationalism, describing him as a "relative newcomer" who has already "made waves."
According to the SPLC, Kessler got his start on the white supremacism scene through his opposition of Charlottesville Vice Mayor and City Councilman Wes Bellamy, who in 2016 called for the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in what is now known as Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park. Despite reportedly having a background in the Occupy Wall Street movement, Kessler has since gone on to push for white nationalists in the name of free speech, including a previous protest in Charlottesville earlier this year that saw torch-wielding attendees.
Kessler is also a member of the "Proud Boys" fraternity, a "western chauvinist" men's club started by Gavin McInnes. While the founder denies it's based in bigotry, he has claimed America is facing a "white genocide."
And the Unite the Right rally seems to ascribe to the same belief. Claiming that removing the Lee statue would erase history, Kessler and his rally comrades — which included the KKK — tried to paint themselves as the victims. In a Periscope video posted to his Twitter feed, Kessler declared that people died because Charlottesville "refused to enforce the Constitution."
"Charlottesville has blood on its hands," he said, placing the blame on the mayor, vice mayor, and the police chief for not keeping the anti-racist protesters separate from the white supremacists. While he disavowed the car attack, calling it "really, really stupid," he continued that sentence by adding that political violence will increase if the Constitution isn't enforced.
Kessler said those who came to protest for white nationalism came in an act of "bravery."