Podcast: The Charlottesville Protests

In this episode, we discuss the events that transpired at the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville. How should we balance hateful messages and threats to public safety against the rights to free speech and free assembly?

Episode 8: Summary

On August 11 and 12, several white supremacist groups rallied in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Counter-protesters also gathered in Charlottesville, and the two groups clashed.

At one point, a white supremacist plowed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring dozens more.

Before these events took place, the ACLU represented Jason Kessler, the rally’s organizer and a prominent white nationalist, in court, after the city of Charlottesville tried to revoke his permit for the rally. Afterwards, many attacked the ACLU’s decision to represent Kessler.

In this episode of The First Five, Gene Policinski and Lata Nott discuss what happened in Charlottesville, how freedom of assembly works, and why it’s important to support everyone’s First Amendment rights–even those of people you detest.


Gene Policinski is the Chief Operating Officer of the Newseum Institute. Lata Nott is the Executive Director of the First Amendment Center at the Newseum Institute.


To read more about Gene Policinski’s take on the events in Charlottesville, read his Inside the First Amendment column: Freedom Is Best Response to White Supremacy Hatemongers.

To learn more about the freedom of assembly, check out our primer on the right to protest. Want to dig deeper? See our full set of articles on the topic.

Are you a teacher trying to talk to your students about the events that transpired in Charlottesville, or about controversial speech in general? Check out these resources provided by NewseumED:


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