Ahead of a massive white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend, Airbnb has begun cancelling the accounts of users who have booked properties they intend to use for gatherings for the event.
The “Unite the Right” rally, which will feature prominent neo-Nazis like Richard Spencer and Baked Alaska, is being billed as a “free speech rally” and the biggest event of its nature in the millennium.
According to the event’s Facebook page, the rally “seeks to unify the right-wing against a totalitarian Community crackdown” 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.”
Airbnb says that its users who plan to attend the rally and use their rented spaces to host gatherings for it are in violation of the company’s Community Commitment, by which all users must abide. The commitment states that users must ”accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age.” Those users who do not comply with the commitment are subject to account deletion by the company.
Airbnb confirmed to Buzzfeed News that it was removing users who were using their service to host events related to the rally.
One of the event’s organizers, Jason Kessler – a former reporter for The Daily Caller who was fired for his white supremacist activism – has said that the rally is in support of the Confederate movement, which advocates a white, Christian America. Kessler has made controversial statements in the past on the subject of American demographics; in a press conference last month advertising the event, he said “nothing against any other group of people – against Muslims, against blacks, whomever – but, they have entire continents in which they can inhabit.”
As many Airbnb users link their accounts on the site to their Facebook accounts, Airbnb has been able to track which of its users have RSVP’d to the rally and similar events in Charlottesville.
Kessler, along with many event attendees, have taken to Twitter to express their distaste for Airbnb’s decision to delete user accounts.
While the organizers had originally been given a permit to hold the event in one of Charlottesville’s parks, the permit has reportedly been revoked, according to the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website. The paper also stated that the “insane Jewish system is doing all it can to shut us down,” likely a reference to Michael Signer, the Jewish mayor of Charlottesville.
In a video posted on his Twitter, Kessler said the event would go on regardless of the permit’s cancellation. He said that the event will be held in what was once called Lee Park, originally named for Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general. A statue of Lee in the park – which has been renamed Emancipation Park by the city council – generated controversy this year as a high school student in Charlottesville petitioned to have it removed. In May, a judge ruled the statue would remain in the park.
In light of accusations against Airbnb for its handling of reported racism by users, the company updated its community guidelines last year. Previous complaints regarding racism were so numerous that Twitter users adopted the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack. Three weeks ago, Airbnb fined one of its hosts $5,000 and ordered them to take a course on Asian-American studies after the user cancelled the reservation of a guest because of her Asian heritage. The would-be host texted the guest ”Wouldn’t rent to u if u were the last person on earth. One word says it all: Asian.”