August 25, 2013; McCall.com
Last month, a police chief from Gilberton, the tiny town of approximately 800 located in the Schuylkill County region of Pennsylvania, posted a profanity-laced, gun-wielding video on YouTube. Since that time, the video has escalated into a full-scale firestorm, receiving national attention. The original video has received over 350,000 views on YouTube. The controversial video has prompted the Gilberton Borough Council to suspend Police Chief Mark Kessler without pay for 30 days for using the borough’s guns in the video. That suspension ended over the weekend and Kessler celebrated the occasion by launching yet another video, this time shooting at characters resembling other local elected officials while issuing strong language against them.
Kessler’s videos and ongoing activism on the issue of gun rights has instigated a local and national uproar, causing The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a 501(c)(4) organization based in Washington, D.C., to pay for a billboard along Route 924, just off the Gilberton exit, that advocates for the borough to fire its suspended police chief. The billboard reads: “Gilberton Council: Fire Kessler. Even the Oath Keepers dumped him.” The Oath Keepers is a nonprofit organization founded in 2009 that encourages its members to disobey “unconstitutional orders, such as orders to disarm the American people.” Elias Alias, who sits on the Oath Keeper’s board of directors, said in an email to the online magazine Salon, “Chief Kessler is not working with Oath Keepers, nor is Oath Keepers working with him.”
“It’s not someplace we normally do work, but we do work where we believe gun lobbies and gun culture are threatening America,” said Joshua Horwitz, executive director of The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Horowitz said the billboard was put up on Aug. 20 and has a 30-day lease, and commented on the police chief’s involvement in leading a state militia group called the Constitution Security Force. “We think the idea that Mark Kessler has a private militia that he is using to intimidate people is not compatible with him being a police chief,” Horwitz said.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence was founded in 1974 to “secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy.” The group is comprised of 47 national organizations working to reduce gun violence and includes members of religious organizations, child welfare advocates, public health professionals and social justice organizations.
According to the Constitution Security Force’s website, chiefkessler.com, the group does not consider itself a militia, but will take up arms to protect against tyranny. At a recent rally approximately 40 allies of the chief, some with assault weapons, gathered at the billboard.
Look for more nonprofit groups to enter the fray as this public back-and-forth on both gun rights and Chief Kessler continue, especially in light of his recent videos following his suspension. –John Brothers