Airbnb deactivating accounts ahead of white nationalist rally in Charlottesville

(Photo: Unite the Right Free Speech Rally via Facebook)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WSET) -- Airbnb is deactivating accounts of users who are planning to host visitors attending a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville this weekend.

The rally's organizer, Jason Kessler, originally applied for a permit to hold the rally at Emancipation Park, but the Charlottesville City Council approved a permit to hold it at McIntire Park instead.

It's because the city is concerned about how many people are expected to show up, the event on Facebook has hundreds marked as 'interested.'

Kessler is now suing Charlottesville over its decision to relocate the event.

The ‘Unite the Right Free Speech Rally’ is posted on Facebook.

It writes that it's an event that seeks to unify the right-wing against a "totalitarian Communist crackdown, to speak out against displacement level immigration policies in the United States and Europe and to affirm the right of Southerners and white people to organize for their interests just like any other group is able to do, free of persecution."

The rally was sparked by Charlottesville's decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park and Kessler's lawsuit argues moving the rally will "dilute" his message, violating free speech.

The Rutherford Institute and American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia are representing Kessler.

People wanting to participate in the Unite the Right rally are being directed to park at McIntire Park.

Organizers said they are concerned that since Airbnb has deactivated accounts, hundreds have been turned away.

Airbnb said it would not comment on how many accounts were affected, but issued a statement:

"In 2016 we established the Airbnb Community Commitment reflecting our belief that to make good on our mission of belonging, those who are members of the Airbnb community accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. We asked all members of the Airbnb to affirmatively sign on to this commitment. When through our background check processes or from input of our community we identify and determine that there are those who would be pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we seek to take appropriate action including, as in this case, removing them from the platform."

The rally will be held from 12-5 p.m.

CPD and the Virginia State Police will be highly visible during the rally, and there will be increased law enforcement patrols near McIntire Park and downtown Charlottesville.

Several organizations are also planning counter programming events, and residents are urged to attend those rather than gather at Emancipation or McIntire parks.

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