Rally Organizer Blames Cops for Violence

Jason Kessler got chased out of chaotic news conference by protesters
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2017 1:49 AM CDT
Updated Aug 14, 2017 6:12 AM CDT
Charlottesville Rally Organizer Forced to Flee Press Conference
A woman tackles Jason Kessler after his press conference was disrupted by protestors Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, outside City Hall in Charlottesville, Va.   (Andrew Shurtleff /The Daily Progress via AP)

The organizer of the "Unite the Right" rally that ended in bloodshed Saturday had to flee his own press conference within minutes Sunday after angry protesters moved in. Jason Kessler was whisked to safety by police after being chased by a crowd of protesters, some of them shouting "Shame!" and "Murderer!", the Daily Progress reports. "I disavow any political violence and what happened yesterday was tragic," he said outside City Hall in Charlottesville, Va., before the chaos began. Police say a 47-year-old man was arrested for allegedly spitting in Kessler's face. In other developments:

  • Before the conference, Kessler released a statement blaming police for purposefully creating "the catastrophe that led to a melee in the streets of Charlottesville and the death of a counterprotester," CNN reports. Kessler, a Charlottesville resident, says he plans to hold more events in the city.

  • Charlottesville's mayor and police chief have rejected accusations that they didn't do enough to stop clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters, the Guardian reports. Law enforcement "did respond to and break up various fights in and around Emancipation Park prior to the unlawful assembly declaration," chief Al Thomas said in a statement Sunday.
  • Protesters denouncing white supremacist groups gathered in cities around the country Sunday for marches and candlelight vigils, the AP reports. In New York City, protesters marched to Trump Tower, calling for the president to condemn the groups behind the Charlottesville rally.
  • A 20-year-old University of Nevada, Reno student identified as one of the torch-carrying marchers protesting the removal of a statute of Gen. Robert E. Lee says he doesn't advocate violence. Peter Cvjetanovic tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he went to the rally because he feels replacing the statue "will be the slow replacement of white heritage within the United States and the people who fought and defended and built their homeland."
  • A member of the ACLU in Virginia has resigned over the group's filing of a lawsuit to prevent police from moving the Charlottesville rally, the Daily Progress reports. "What’s legal and what's right are sometimes different," said Waldo Jaquith. The ACLU accused authorities of trying to move the event because they disagreed with the beliefs of the organizers. "The ACLU of Virginia stands for the right to free expression for all, not just those whose opinions are in the mainstream or with whom the government agrees," said Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastanaga in a statement.
  • Amid criticism of President Trump's initial response, Vice President Mike Pence strongly condemned the groups involved Sunday, the Washington Post reports. "We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis, or the KKK," he said. "These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms."
(A teacher says the Ohio man accused of mowing down counter-protesters in Charlottesville, killing one, was infatuated with the Nazis.)

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