Organizer of Virginia white nationalist rally loses a lawyer

Organizer of Virginia white nationalist rally loses a lawyer

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The primary organizer of last summer's deadly white nationalist rally in Virginia is losing one of his attorneys after abandoning his legal campaign for a permit to stage an event marking its anniversary.

The lawyer, Elmer Woodard, asked a federal court Wednesday for consent to withdraw from Jason Kessler's lawsuit against the city of Charlottesville. Woodard said in a court filing that Kessler has shirked his "financial responsibilities" and has made representing him "unreasonably difficult."

Woodard's request comes one day after Kessler abruptly withdrew his petition for a court order compelling Charlottesville to issue him a rally permit for next month. Kessler arrived more than 30 minutes late for a hearing on his request.

Afterward, Kessler tweeted that he is proceeding with plans for an Aug. 12 rally in Washington. The National Park Service approved his application for an Aug. 12 "white civil rights" rally at Lafayette Square, near the White House, but hasn't issued a permit for the event.

Kessler didn't immediately respond to a text message seeking comment on Woodard's court filing.

James Kolenich, an Ohio-based attorney, also represents Kessler in his case against Charlottesville. Kolenich told reporters on Tuesday that Kessler hadn't informed his attorneys before the hearing that he would ask to withdraw his request for a preliminary injunction.

Kessler sued in March, claiming the city's refusal to grant him a permit trampled on his free speech rights under the First Amendment. The city said Kessler can't be trusted to cooperate with police to stage a peaceful event.

The lawsuit that Kessler filed against the city remains pending and has a tentative trial date in April 2019.

Last August, hundreds of people traveled to Charlottesville to participate in Kessler's "Unite the Right" rally and protest the city's plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park that was named after the Confederate general. Hundreds of white supremacists and counterprotesters clashed in the streets before a car plowed into a crowd, killing 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Heyer.

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