Jason Kessler is the man behind Saturday’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The local blogger and white nationalist organized the event at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville. The venue features a towering Robert E. Lee statue, and Kessler had planned to use the thousands-strong gathering of white nationalists to protest the removal of similar Confederate monuments across the south.
Prior to the start of Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally, Jason Kessler faced serious push-back from many fronts. From local government (who wanted the rally moved to an alternate, easier to police location) to Airbnb (which removed user accounts belonging to those affiliated with the event), the planned rally got off to a rocky start.
But start it did. The “Unite the Right” rally, which Southern Poverty Law Center had warned could end up being “the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States,” officially kicked off on Friday night. That’s when thousands of alt-right supporters, neo-Nazis, KKK members, and white nationalists joined Jason Kessler, armed themselves with Tiki torches, and descended on the University of Virginia in “white pride” solidarity.
As New York Daily News reports, Kessler and his “Unite the Right” cronies were promptly roasted on Twitter for their “cultural appropriation” of the Polynesian people.
“I find it ironic that a bunch of racist are using tiki torches. Y’all can’t even hate without appropriating another culture #Charlottesville,” tweeted @TheFaceofBoe87.”
Images of the disturbing mob of white nationalists, however, almost immediately went viral, with many likening the display to KKK rallies largely believed to be part of America’s past.
Things quickly turned violent on Friday night as “Unite the Right” rally attendees clashed with counter protesters. Despite a few skirmishes, things calmed down overnight before ramping back up again on Saturday morning.
As The Hill reports, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe was forced to declare a state of emergency on Saturday when things became increasingly violent between Jason Kessler’s largely alt-right “Unite the Right” rally attendees and counter protesters who had turned out to protest white nationalist ideals. According to the Governor, he was “disgusted” by the violence incited by the “Unite the Right” event.
“I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours. The actions I have taken are intended to assist local government and restore public safety.”
Shortly after the emergency declaration, the violence between the collection of alt-right supporters, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists and their opposition became so extreme that police declared that the gathering at the park had become an unlawful assembly, and crowds began to disperse. According to Jason Kessler and other “Unite the Right” organizers, their attendees “left peacefully.”
However, 20-year-old James Fields, a suspect with ties to both the white nationalist belief system and the “Unite the Right” rally, later allegedly plowed into a crowd of counter protesters, killing one and injuring at least 19. On Saturday morning, Fields was photographed holding a shield featuring an alt-right propaganda symbol with ties to the Vanguard America hate group.
On Sunday afternoon, “Unite the Right” rally organizer Jason Kessler attempted to hold a press conference near City Hall in Charlottesville, roughly 24 hours after a counter protester was allegedly murdered at the event. He was met by irate protesters, cameras, and a throng of media.
Kessler didn’t make it far into his speech before being unequivocally shut down by the protesters who had gathered in response to his attempt to speak to the press.
“Among the chants: ‘You’re wearing the wrong hood,’ a reference to the Ku Klux Klan.”
As CBS News reports, “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler was immediately met with boos, chants, and outright rage as he waited for his opportunity to speak. While he did get a couple of words out, Kessler was almost totally drowned out before he was quickly attacked and forced to flee the scene as protesters crossed the line of cameras separating the white nationalist blogger from the seething crowd.
One man screamed in Kessler’s face, “Indict for murder now,” an apparent reference to yesterday’s deadly car attack that left one woman dead. One video appears to show Kessler being punched in the face before fleeing the podium.
State troopers at the scene quickly surrounded Jason Kessler and attempted to shield the “Unite the Right” organizer from the worst of the violence and rage as the crowd continued to attack him. It has also been reported that snipers were stationed on roofs of nearby buildings as a precaution.
Kessler was tackled to the ground by one woman before law enforcement pulled her off of him. Despite the aggressive nature of the crowds, most anti-Kessler protesters were not arrested or even cited as the blogger desperately fled the scene.
KTVR 6 is reporting that at least one man is facing criminal charges after the failed Jason Kessler press conference. Forty-seven-year-old Robert K. Litzenberger of Charlottesville was reportedly charged with misdemeanor assault and battery for spitting on Kessler as he ran away from his Sunday press conference after uttering only a few short sentences.
A Virginia State Trooper reportedly witnessed the assault, and Litzenberger was reportedly booked and released on an unsecured bond after the alleged.
Following the severely abbreviated Sunday press conference that ended with him fleeing a fed-up and irate crowd, “Unite the Right” rally organizer Jason Kessler took to Twitter to call the city of Charlottesville a “communist government.”
[Featured Image by Pool/AP Images]