Airbnb has barred white-power groups from using the room-sharing service for a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., this weekend.
Airbnb announced Monday it was deleting the accounts of “alt-right” activists, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen and other white supremacy groups, who had booked lodging in Charlottesville for Saturday’s demonstration.
Local authorities, meanwhile, braced for trouble as counterdemonstrators planned their response to the alt-right incursion. Last month, more than 1,000 people turned out to oppose a rally by about 30 Ku Klux Klansmen in Charlottesville. (Some outlets reported as many as 60 Klansmen, but they were still drowned out by the protesters.)
In a statement to local TV station NBC29, Airbnb cited its “background check processes (and) input of our community” in determining that white nationalists were reserving space in Charlottesville on the Airbnb platform. The room-sharing service said that when it identifies a group that is “antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we seek to take appropriate action including, as in this case, removing them from the platform."
Rally organizer Jason Kessler complained to the Washington Post Monday night that Airbnb was being discriminatory.
“It’s the racial targeting of white people for their ethnic advocacy,” Kessler wrote to the Post. "Would Airbnb cancel the service of black nationalists or Black Lives Matter activists for their social media activity? Of course not!”
The Unite the Right rally is scheduled to take place at the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park (known as Robert E. Lee Park until earlier this year, when the City Council changed the name and voted to remove Lee’s statue. The monument remains, however, while the two sides litigate the issue).
The hate-watch group Southern Poverty Law Center said Saturday’s rally is “shaping up to be the largest hate gathering of its kind in decades.”
The center said it expected extremist groups from “immigration foes to anti-Semitic bigots, neo-Confederates, Proud Boys, Patriot and militia types, outlaw bikers, swastika-wearing neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Ku Klux Klan members” at the rally. It called the rally a “summer of hate gathering.”
An alt-right who’s who is lined up to speak at the rally: Richard Spencer, Augustus Invictus, Kessler, Baked Alaska, Johnny Monoxide and others.
Also on Monday, Charlottesville city leaders told the Unite the Right organizers to relocate their rally from Emancipation Park to a larger venue in the city, McIntyre Park, because of the expected crowds, NBC29 reported.
Rally organizer Kessler refused, saying his permit enables the group to gather at the Lee statue.