After Charlottesville rally withdrawal, opponents warn ‘terrorists coming anyway’

WASHINGTON — Despite the decision by organizer Jason Kessler to withdraw his request for a court order allowing him to stage a Unite the Right anniversary rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, opponents expect the city to be full of white nationalists on Aug. 11 and Aug. 12.

“The terrorists are going to come to our community anyway,” said University of Virginia professor and Black Lives Matter organizer Lisa Woolfork. “They have already been galvanized, they got great attention from the terror they wielded here, and I think they might see it as a matter of principle.”

Woolfork made her comments in reaction to Kessler and his attorneys’ decision Tuesday to drop a motion for a preliminary injunction.

Kessler organized the event last Aug. 12 to protest Charlottesville’s decision to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The rally attracted white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, who clashed with anti-racist and anti-fascist counterprotesters.

Heather Heyer, a counterprotester, was killed when James Alex Fields, Jr., an attendee, allegedly drove his car into a group of people on the Charlottesville pedestrian mall.

“For too long in Charlottesville, civility and politeness have been code words for passivity, but civility can never be used as a cloak, under which white supremacy can flourish,” Woolfork said.

“I encourage all good people of conscience to come out, and to show up, to get involved, and to be present on the weekend of Aug. 11 and Aug. 12, because your community needs you. And your community is you, and me, and all of us.”

Kessler has tweeted he will concentrate his efforts on an Aug. 12 “pro-white civil rights” rally in Washington, D.C., at Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House.

According to National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst, Kessler’s application has been approved, but not yet issued. Litterst said after the agency has “all the information to ensure the safety of participants and protection of park resources, then we’ll issue the permit.”

Still, Woolfork hopes people in Charlottesville won’t let down their guard: “I wouldn’t want people to think ‘oh, great, all bets are off, everything is fine, we can go back to normal because he has no permit.'”

Under the city’s new event policy, approved in February by the City Council, Kessler could bring fewer than 50 people to an event, without needing a permit.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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