The city of Charlottesville, Virginia has been put on high alert for Saturday. The event in question is a rally organized by Jason Kessler to protest the removal of Confederate statues from the city’s public parks. It was originally planned as a “Unite the Right” rally bringing together many far-right groups under one banner, but it’s unclear which major group will show up, if any at all.
The removal of the statues has been a contentious topic in Charlottesville. The discussion about what to do with them intensified after white nationalist Dylann Roof murdered nine people in Charleston, South Carolina’s historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17th, 2015. This turned the Confederate flag and various other symbols associated with it into public enemy
To Charlottesville’s credit, the statues were removed quickly a statue of General Robert E. Lee was torn down in mid-April and another memorial to Confederate soldiers was taken down on August 23rd. All the while, Kessler has been fighting a losing battle for a permit allowing him to hold his rally at a larger park in the city.
However, there is a long list of other right-wing groups who have expressed interest in attending. Originally, 11 a.m. was set as a start time for the rally but now no one knows when it will actually begin due to infighting within the ranks of those expected to attend. One event publicized on the Southern Nationalist Network website was called the “Nameless Field” rally, but the organizer of that event has said it will not go on.
A much bigger question is how many people will show up to oppose Kessler’s cause. A coalition of Charlottesville-based activist groups have organized an event consisting of a morning “Rally for Justice” and a “March to Confront White Supremacy” that will take place at 1:30 p.m., just after the start time of Kessler’s rally.
There is also another large group that has been asked to attend, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). This may be one of the first times a DSA-organized event has actually attracted other left-wing groups, as opposed to the group typically attracting public attention by itself.
The Charlottesville DSA event is slated for 12 p.m., but there are questions about what will happen if the two events overlap. Local antifa sources claim they will not directly confront anyone unless violence is used against them, while many other antifa militants have been organizing a “Defend Cville” event that will start around 11 a.m.
The mayor of Charlottesville has put the city on high alert and has stopped short of calling for Kessler’s rally to be canceled but it seems unlikely that Kessler will get his permit. The Charlottesville police chief, however, has said that the city will prepare for any and all contingencies.
Charlottesville is not the only town scheduled to see this sort of action on Saturday. Several other American towns and cities are expecting similar events: Gainesville (FL), New Orleans (LA), and Durham (NC) among them.