The police chief of a small Pennsylvania borough has been temporarily removed from his post, but his opponents are far from satisfied. Now residents of a sparsely populated former coal town are asking the feds to intervene in fear of an armed revolt.
Gilberton, Pennsylvania Police Chief Mark Kessler made international headlines last month when his personal, profanity laced YouTube videos went viral, in turn exposing the world to a lawman seemingly intent with defending his Second Amendment right by any means necessary.
“Secretary of State John Kerry, that piece of shit traitor. Who is he to decide what we can and can’t own?” Kessler says in one clip where he argues in support of gun ownership. “And fuck the UN. Who are they to decide what we, the American people, can own?” the disgruntled officer asks.
Kessler uploaded a number of similar videos of himself screaming obscenities at the likes of Sec. Kerry and others, ending each episode by unloading dozens of automatic rounds in front of the camera. After repeated calls for official action, the city suspended him last week for using borough property for personal use. As he awaits the end of his suspension, though, his critics are asking for the government to give them a hand to ensure Kessler’s personal army — a homegrown militia called Kessler’s Constitution Security Force — doesn’t try to take control.
Tensions between Kessler and his critics have been high since before the videos began surfacing, but matters were only made worse last Wednesday when the chief asked his Constitution Security Force to surround the town meeting where his suspension was to be discussed.
“When it came time to open the small borough building for the public meeting, these armed men blocked the doors and prevented people from going inside,” local reporter John Luciew wrote from the hearing.
“I have been organizing for four decades. I have faced Klansmen in Kentucky, Ustase in Bosnia and police indiscriminately beating demonstrators in Italy. [Wednesday] night in Gilberton was more frightening than any of those situations,” Michael Morril of Keystone Progress told Huffington Post.
In all, around 100 members of the CSF — outfitted with AR-15 assault rifles — are said to have descended on the scene last Wednesday. Inside the borough hall, the handful of residents lucky enough to bypass Kessler’s security detail spoke of the chief’s intimidation tactics — and a petition signed by 20,000 people demanding Kessler’s termination was delivered to the council.
“He’s a nut. I do not feel safe with him around at all,” resident Wade Greg Necker said, according to the Huffington Post. Another attendee, Gregory Grove, said of his wife: “She’s afraid of him. Kessler is a detriment to this borough.”
Gilberton Mayor Mary Lou Hannon said in a statement that she hopes Kessler returns in one month and the entire experience “does not leave a bad taste in his mouth.” It might never come to that, though, if a petition hosted on the White House’s ‘We the People’ webpage garners support in Washington.
Although Gilberton only holds around 700 citizens, nearly 900 people have already signed their names to a petition asking the Pennsylvania National Guard to come and disarm Kessler “and his thugs.”
“Whereas, the Chief of Police of Gilberton, Pennsylvania have usurped the government of the Town of Gilberton through the use of arms and armed intimidation and Whereas, he has recruited armed vigilantes to block access to town meetings and further has threatened and intimidated town citizens who might speak out in opposition against him and Whereas he has posted videos threatening the life of Secretary of State John Kerry and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; we the people of the United States call on the President of the United States, Barack H. Obama to order the federalizing of the Pennsylvania National Guard to go to Gilberton to disarm the Chief and his gang and restore law and order to the Town of Gilberton,” the petition reads in full.
Another 99,000-plus signees must add their digital autograph to the petition to garner an actual response from the White House, suggesting any action whatsoever from the Executive Branch isn’t likely to occur. Even if that goal isn’t reached by the time Kessler’s suspension ends, however, the negative attention he’s drawing from around the world to his tiny town could be enough to garner action, at least on a local level.
Meanwhile, Kessler’s supporters have started a campaign of sorts on their own — a “Support Mark Kessler” crowd-funding page has so far raised $2,367 for the suspended chief in just four days while he misses out on four weeks of pay.