The University of Virginia Police Department is reviewing its ban of graduate Jason Kessler ahead of the expiration of a 2018 no-trespass order.
Kessler, a key organizer of both the 2017 Unite the Right rally and a preceding torch march on UVa grounds, attracted much negative attention in April 2018 when he reportedly clashed with students at the UVa School of Law library.
On April 26 of the same year, the UVa Police Department issued a no-trespass order to Kessler valid for four years. Officers cited multiple reports from students that he threatened them based on protected characteristics and says he intentionally misled police about his UVa rally, held the night before the Unite the Right rally.
With the four-year expiration of Kessler’s no-trespass order looming, the UVa police officials said they will review his case.
“The University of Virginia Police Department will, on occasion, review evidence which led to the issuance of a trespass warning either at the request of the respondent or at the conclusion of the four-year time period,” officials said. “In this matter, we will be conducting such a review and will take action in accordance with university policy and law.”
UVa policy is that no-trespass orders — also referred to as no-trespass warnings — can be reissued prior to the four-year expiration. Renewal can be made if a person is “engaged in ongoing conduct that threatens the health, safety, or property of a member of the university or its Medical Center community, a patient or visitor at the Medical Center, the educational process, or for other reasons.”
As a public university, UVa can’t ban a person for having white supremacist or neo-Nazi beliefs. Instead, it can ban those who engage in criminal activity on Grounds, violate policy or threaten the health or safety of someone on school property.
Violating an order is a class 4 misdemeanor.
Kessler, who is a UVa graduate, is not the only figure connected to the violent summer of 2017 to be banned from UVa Grounds. When Kessler was initially given the no-trespass warning, only neo-Nazi podcaster Chris Cantwell had also received one.
Kessler attempted to appeal his no-trespass order in 2018. In his appeal Kessler accused the students “of being evidence of Jews following him around and harassing him” and said he himself was actually the victim of racial harassment.
However, an independent consultant did not agree with Kessler’s assessment and upheld the university’s decision that Kessler had intentionally misled UVa police about his march, which ended in violence at the Rotunda.
“It was not ‘arbitrary and capricious’ for the [University Police Department] to issue the trespass warning based, among other things, on [an officer’s] sworn declaration of facts,” the consultant wrote.
Following calls to expand no-trespass orders, in October 2018 UVa issued trespass warnings to 10 additional white supremacists based on their actions during a torch-lit rally on grounds on Aug. 11, 2017.
“This wasn’t a review of previous efforts; this was an ongoing investigation,” said Tim Heaphy, then UVa General Counsel. “And I don’t think this is over. Law enforcement efforts continue.”
Warnings were issued to various notable Unite The Right figures including Benjamin Daley, of Redondo Beach, California; Antonio Foreman, of Thousand Oaks, California; Thomas Gillen, of Redondo Beach, California; Elliott Kline, of Reading, Pennsylvania; Michael Miselis, of Lawndale, California; Vasillious Pistolis, of Charlotte, North Carolina; Robert Ray, of Frankston, Texas; Wil Smith, of Nocona, Texas; Richard Spencer, of Alexandria; and Cole White, of Clayton, California.
It remains to be seen whether the UVa Police Department will review these no-trespass warnings when they reach their four-year expirations on Oct. 25.
In the years since the torch march on UVa grounds, few of the participants have faced criminal charges, which has frustrated some Charlottesville area residents.
Many of the participants, including Kessler and fellow UVa graduate Spencer, have faced civil consequences via lawsuits. The most significant of these lawsuits was the Sines v. Kessler case, which in fall 2021 saw several former UVa students face more than a dozen key rally and march participants in Charlottesville’s federal court.
After a more than a month-long trial, a jury found the defendants to be liable for approximately $26 million in damages after determining they had engaged in a conspiracy to commit violence at UVa and in Charlottesville.
Many of the defendants, including Kessler, are attempting to have the damages reduced or be re-tried altogether.