CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the leader of a white nationalist rally that ended in violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Jason Kessler argued in the lawsuit that law enforcement and city officials violated his free speech rights by effectuating a “heckler’s veto” on the 2017 Unite the Right rally.
Kessler argued that the defendants knew of plans by leftist “Antifa” activists to disrupt the rally, then used the expected chaos and violence caused by confrontations between alt-right protesters and “Antifa” counter-protesters as an excuse to shut down the rally.
U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon ruled Friday that the defendants did not breach any affirmative constitutional duty to Kessler.
Moon said that while the defendants had a constitutional obligation to not restrict Kessler’s speech because of the threat or possibility of public hostility to the alt-right message, they had no constitutional obligation to prevent that public hostility.
“In sum, plaintiffs’ allegations that defendants failed to prevent private parties from mutually engaging in violence that led to the declaration of an unlawful assembly did not state a claim for the violation of a constitutional right,” Moon wrote.
The August 2017 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.
After authorities forced the clashing crowds to disperse, a car driven by a white nationalist plowed into a group of people, killing 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Heyer.
The driver of the car, James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, was sentenced last year to life in prison.