Pa. Police Chief Stirs Furor Over Abrasive Videos
GILBERTON, Pa. (AP) – The police chief of a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal country who is an outspoken gun-rights advocate and is trying to organize a non-government armed group has stirred up a furor after he posted videos of himself in confrontational, profanitylaced tirades punctuated by him firing off automatic weapons.
At one point, he fires a weapon and screams, “come and get it!’’ after he criticizes Secretary of State John Kerry for signing a United Nations treaty that requires ratifying countries to begin controlling arms brokers, but does not control the domestic use of weapons in any country.
The chief, Mark Kessler, is the one-man police force of tiny Gilberton Borough, population approximately 800. He told the Standard-Speaker newspaper of nearby Hazleton that he is within his constitutional rights in the videos and he obeys the constitution as a police chief.
“Some people are just trying to make a mountain out of a molehill,’’ he told the newspaper Tuesday from Texas where he was vacationing.
In an interview with WNEP-TV in northeastern Pennsylvania, he said he made the videos to draw attention to what he views as the erosion of constitutional rights of free speech and to bear arms.
“I have always been progun and always will be in progun and I don’t have no apologies to make. I expressed myself and that’s the way it is,’’ Kessler told WNEP-TV. “I chose to use profanity to get someone’s attention in that video. To wake people up and say, ‘Hey, if you don’t stand up for your rights, you’re going lose them.’’’
Gilberton Mayor Mary Lou Hannon said Wednesday that she found the language offensive and understood that many others did, too.
“They’re like watching an R-rated movie,’’ Hannon told The Associated Press. “The profanity and violence in it was a little upsetting.’’
The weapons in the video are legal weapons and belong to the police department after he purchased them with his own money and donated them to the Gilberton police department in a transaction approved by the borough council, Hannon said.
The council, which has had a contract with Kessler for 14 years, may address the matter at its Thursday meeting, Hannon said. She said she supports his continued employment and said he has made a lot of residents feel safe and responds to emergencies at all hours.
“If you were in trouble and you needed somebody to protect you, Mark would be the person you would want running to your aid,’’ Hannon said. “My experience and that of many of our residents (is) he will die for you. He’s loyal and I think that’s important.’’
Kessler is active in gunrights circles, appearing on an online radio broadcast on the conspiracy theory web- site Infowars, speaking at gun-rights rallies and hosting his own Web site where he is organizing his own Constitutional Security Force.
In January, Kessler drafted a resolution the borough adopted that calls for “nullifying all federal, state or local acts in violation of the Second Amendment.’’ He boasted about the resolution while speaking at a February gunrights rally on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol.
“If they come in and try to disarm any of my citizens it’s not going to go over very well,’’ he told the crowd.