Town seeks to fire chief in gun videos
GILBERTON — Town officials said they intend to fire a police chief suspended after he posted online videos of himself shooting automatic weapons and going on profanity-laced tirades about liberals and the Second Amendment.
Gilberton officials made the decision on Thursday concerning police chief Mark Kessler, the only full-time member of the town’s police force, who’s active in gun rights circles and is organizing an armed, nongovernment group that critics call a private militia.
Kessler said the decision was “no surprise.”
“We knew it was coming,” he said.
A closed-door disciplinary hearing earlier in the day had dwelled on allegations including that Kessler improperly used a state-administered program to buy discounted tires for his personal vehicle, failed to submit required crime data and made derogatory comments about borough officials. The charges were trumped up to conceal the town’s intent to fire Kessler over the videos, his attorney, Joseph Nahas said. Kessler told reporters outside his disciplinary hearing that he had been an excellent police chief and had nothing to apologize for.
Kessler solicited donations to help keep his family afloat financially during his unpaid suspension, which he said was “really stressful.”
“But I feel in my heart I’m doing the right thing,” he said. “Yeah, I made some videos with some choice language, but that’s my right. That’s my freedom.”
Kessler’s pro-gun videos have garnered hundreds of thousands of views online. He acknowledges they are inflammatory but said they’re designed to draw attention to the erosion of Second Amendment and other constitutional rights.
Kessler, a former coal miner, often posts online radio shows about gun rights, has spoken at gun rights rallies and created a website on which he seeks recruits for the Constitution Security Force, whose stated mission is to defend the constitution and the country from tyranny.
Gun rights activists had descended on the community of about 800 people, in Schuylkill County in eastern Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal country, to show support for Kessler, some carrying flags and displaying weapons.
Constitution Security Force member Bob Gardner traveled from Philadelphia.
“Mark has gotten railroaded,” said Gardner, who carried a semi-automatic AK-47. “He was exercising his First Amendment rights by backing it up with his Second Amendment rights.”
In January, Kessler drafted a resolution the borough adopted that calls for nullifying any federal, state or local regulations that infringe on the Second Amendment.
PHOTO: Suspended Gilberton police chief, Mark Kessler, right, stands with supporter Dave Zimmerman outside the Gilberton Borough Hall in Schuylkill County, Pa., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. Kessler, who posted videos online in which he shot borough-owned automatic weapons while shouting obscenities about liberals and the Second Amendment, fought to keep his job Thursday. Kessler told reporters outside his closed-door disciplinary hearing that he had been an excellent police chief and had nothing to apologize for. (AP Photo/PennLive.com, Sean Simmers)