Upholding the Right of Free Speech for All, Jason Kessler v. City of Charlottesville and Maurice Jones, Charlottesville City Manager.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Rutherford Institute filed a lawsuit in the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia (Charlottesville Division) on August 10, 2017 on behalf of “alt-right” activist Jason Kessler claiming his 1st and 14th Amendment rights were being denied by the city’s refusal to allow him and supporters to access Emancipation Park on August 12, 2017. On June 13, 2017 the City approved a permit application from Mr. Kessler for a “Unite the Right” march at which he estimated four hundred people would be in attendance. The purpose of the rally was to protest the city’s decision to rename the former Lee Park and remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the park. On August 7, 2017, Mr. Kessler was informed that he would only be allowed to hold the rally if it were moved to another location a mile away. The city claimed that “many thousands” of people were likely to attend the rally, including supporters and opponents, and cited safety concerns. Moving the rally to a different location would dilute Mr. Kessler’s message because the planned location of Emancipation Park is directly related to it, and thus his constitutional rights to free speech, assembly and petition were being violated.

On August 11, 2017, we filed an Expedited Motion for Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order to allow Mr. Kessler the right to assemble at the park he was originally permitted to assemble. On August 11, 2017, John Kluge, Alight Fund, LLC, David Posner, and Hunter Smith filed an Amicus Brief in support of the City of Charlottesville.  On the same day, the Defendants then filed a Brief in Opposition to our Expedited Motion for Preliminary Injunction. A hearing was set before Honorable Glen Conrad on August 11, 2017. After hearing both sides’ argument, the Judge granted our preliminary injunction and ordered that Mr. Kessler be allowed to assemble at Emancipation Park. On August 29, 2017, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the claim.


Hope R. Amezquita and Leslie Mehta, ACLU of Virginia; John Whitehead and Douglas R. McKusick, The Rutherford Institute

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Victor Glasberg, Victor M. Glasberg & Associates

Date filed

August 10, 2017


U.S. District Court, Western District of Virginia, Charlottesville