Last August, white supremacists stood in a Charlottesville, Virginia park chanting “you will not replace us.” This year they might be replaced by a giraffe and a dunk tank.
Organizers of last year’s deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally are attempting to host an anniversary event in Charlottesville. So far, the city has denied an application to host the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park on August 11 and 12. Jason Kessler, one of the event’s lead organizers is suing the city to overturn the decision. But now Kessler has more competition, this time in the form of a petting zoo, Charlottesville’s Daily Progress first reported. A Charlottesville local has filed a permit for a family-friendly extravaganza that takes place in the same park, on the same two days as the would-be ‘Unite the Right’ sequel.
Justin Beights, a Charlottesville businessman who filed the application, says the timing didn’t occur to him.
“It really was just to have a fun family event. After the fact, I was talking to my insurance guy who was like ‘what are you doing?’ I didn’t even realize,” Beights told The Daily Beast. “I just said, okay, well, let’s just keep rolling forward because those are the only days that work for us.”
His application, published by the Daily Progress, would reserve Emancipation Park for “Festival of the Schmestival,” a weekend event featuring a dunk tank and a petting zoo that might include a giraffe. The festival would take place August 12, with setup on August 11. Kessler’s permit application seeks to reserve the park those same two days.
“It really wasn’t supposed to get this much attention,” Beights said, describing the festival as a simple event. “It’s just going to be a fun day, not even having food and drink, but hopefully some local performers. I really just wanted to get a dunk tank and some local celebrities in there so people could bid money to dunk people on City Council on a nice summer day in Charlottesville.”
He said he planned on donating proceeds to local charities, to be announced if his permit is approved.
Kessler could also potentially win a permit for August 11 and 12, although he faces a serious legal challenge from a city that does not want him. Charlottesville denied his permit application in December, and he is currently suing the city in a bid to overturn the ruling. Earlier this month, he won tentative approval to hold the rally in Washington, D.C., directly across from the White House. If he wins his case against Charlottesville, Kessler plans to hold rallies in both cities that weekend, although the logistics of the plan remain vague and Kessler has not returned The Daily Beast’s previous requests for clarification.
Beights said his intent in filing the application wasn’t to cause problems with the white supremacist rally, “but if they want to waste time hassling me, I guess they’ll waste time hassling me.”
All he wants is some music and a charity dunk tank in the park that neo-Nazis sought to claim as their own last year.
“If a side effect of that is stopping a bunch of white supremacists from ruining our town again,” he said, “that’s fantastic.”