Jason Kessler, the man who organized the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., will be awarded a handsome sum of $5 by a Virginia Court over insulting names an activist hurled at him.
Kessler, who once said the United States “would be better off if the South won the war” and tweeted that the death of Unite the Right counter-protester Heather Heyer (a “fat, disgusting Communist”) was “payback,” said he filed the suit to bring “decorum.”
As Cville.com reports, Kessler sued activist Donna Gasapo, who hurled a string of insults at him outside a Charlottesville General District Court in March. Gasapo was among the activists who had gathered there to support Deandre Harris, a black man who was viciously attacked by a white mob during the rally, during his assault trial. She says she was attempting to drown out Kessler’s hateful words about Harris when she began calling him names.
Among the 30-or-so insults Kessler took offense to were “murderer,” “racist,” “asshole” and “goddamn crybaby.”
“They are the exact words I said,” Gasapo told the judge.
Kessler claimed that being labeled a murderer was a “reckless disregard for the truth” and it “hurt his character.” But Gasapo’s lawyer argued that, as a public figure, Gasapo’s insults would have to meet a standard of actual malice—that is, statements that Gasapo knew to be false.
Judge Robert H. Downer Jr. agreed that Gasapo’s comments hadn’t damaged Kessler’s reputation, but still sided with Kessler, granting him a symbolic $5 of the $500 he had sued for.
Keeping in mind that Kessler brands himself, whenever convenient, as a kind of “free speech” advocate, his petty lawsuit is all the more striking. Gasapo, in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, hasn’t decided whether to appeal the decision but says the ruling is concerning.
“I think we should all be very concerned about what this ruling means in terms of opening up other frivolous harassment suits against members of our community who are expressing their opinions and their very real feelings of frustration, which we believe are protected by the First Amendment,” she said.
Up next for Kessler is another demonstration, which Kessler is calling a “White Civil Rights Rally,” to be held August 11 and 12 in Washington, D.C.