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Who is Jason Kessler?

Image via SPLC

A look at the man behind the Charlottesville rally.

The recent “Unite the Right” protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, created widespread controversy across the United States. Many Senators and prominent personalities explicitly condemned the protests. President Donald Trump also took to Twitter: “We all must be united & condemn all that hate stands for.

“There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!” However, the controversy continued to develop after it was alleged that the head organizer of the rally, Jason Kessler, was a supporter of President Obama before he switched his political leanings.

So, who exactly is Jason Kessler?

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Jason Kessler rose to prominence in the Alt-Right movement relatively recently. A resident of Charlottesville, Kessler graduated from the University of Virginia in 2009.  He remained relatively under the radar until a few years ago, until which he expressed left-leaning political views. He voted for President Obama in 2008 and also attended an Occupy Wall Street protest.

His involvement in the movement was unearthed when he live-streamed an attendee asking him questions at one of his events. The attendee proceeded to apologize for a spat between them during an Occupy event they participated in. Kessler was allegedly very uncomfortable when reminded about his leftist past.

As mentioned earlier, Kessler kept a relatively low profile on social media until 2016, when Kessler accused Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy of having an “anti-white” bias. He proceeded to vindicate his stance by displaying homophobic and sexist tweets from Bellamy’s twitter account, prior to him assuming office.

Kessler demanded Bellamy’s immediate resignation in light of his offensive tweets and even asserted that Bellamy was elected to the Board of Education because of the political elitism of Democrats.

Kessler was arrested for assault this April for punching a man who interrupted him while he was collecting signatures to remove Bellamy from office. According to Kessler, “He and his buddy came over, they scribbled on my petition and vandalized it. James didn’t want to have a conversation with me, he yelled you’re a … and he called me a name. I felt threatened and I hit him to get him away from me.”

Before his social media outburst against Bellamy, Kessler wrote about travel on his blog and promoted his two books. It is worth noting that neither of his books was political. The first book was a collection of his poetry called Midnight Road and the second book, Badland Blues, is a novel chronicling the life of a drunken dwarf.

His dramatic shift in political ideology occurred in 2013. Kessler was particularly infuriated when a PR executive was fired for a racist tweet about Africa. Kessler felt that the joke was harmless and the backlash that the executive faced was exaggerated. Kessler objected to the increasing levels of political correctness, especially in leftist political circles.

Preceding the August “Unite the Right” rally, Kessler organized another torch-lit procession that was protesting the removal of Confederate statues in Charlottesville’s parks. He was arrested again at the event for failing to comply with police orders. The rally caused quite a stir, as comparisons were drawn with KKK meetings. Kessler refuted the comparisons and tweeted that “European people have a long history of torch-lit funeral processions to honor the dead See: Vikings.”

However, things have gone awry for Kessler. In addition to the criticism he has received from the moderate left and right, Kessler appears to be shunned by fellow white supremacists too after his prior association with the left became public.

He has been in hiding since receiving several death threats and was chased out from his own press conference by counter-protesters yelling “Shame on you!” The vilification of Kessler appears to be exacerbated after a white supremacist ran over and killed a counter protestor with his car.

Kessler also received criticism from local Rep. Tom Garrett during in an interview with Fox news. Mr. Garret denounced him as a “racist ideologue who thrives on attention like fire thrives on oxygen.”

For a man whose political aspirations appeared ambitious, Jason Kessler’s days in the public sphere may be numbered due to his less than favorable actions and statements.

Arin Gerald studies mechanical engineering at Boston University. He writes about entrepreneurship, technology, and business.

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