Charlottesville Police arrested three men, including local right-wing blogger Jason Kessler, at a rally in Lee Park Sunday evening held to denounce a white nationalist “alt-right” protest held in Lee Park Saturday and to promote a more inclusive community.
Members of Showing Up for Racial Justice Charlottesville and supporters of Black Lives Matter were among those who attended the counter-protest, during which individuals lit candles, in contrast to the torches held by participants in the white nationalist protest.
Kessler is known for his efforts to remove Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy from office over controversial tweets Bellamy had posted prior to being elected to City Council. Kessler’s petition was ultimately dismissed by a Charlottesville Circuit Court judge.
Charlottesville Police charged both Kessler and Afton resident Jordan C. McNeish with disorderly conduct. According to police, Kessler was arrested for inciting violence and not obeying an officer’s orders to leave the area, while McNeish was arrested for spitting on Kessler.
Richmond resident Charles W. Best was arrested for assault and battery on law enforcement, disorderly conduct and carrying a concealed weapon. Best was initially taken into custody for throwing an object that hit an officer in the head, and while he was being searched an automatic opening knife was found on his person.
“During the last minutes of the rally, several disorders ensued and while breaking these up one of our officers was struck with an object thrown from the crowd causing a minor injury to his head,” Lt. Steve Upman said in a statement. “Charles W. Best was identified as the individual who threw the object and was taken into custody.”
Saturday’s white nationalist rally was held in protest of City Council’s decision in February to rename Lee Park and remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The decision has notably attracted criticism from Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart and a lawsuit filed in hopes of preventing the city from legally taking down the statute.
Regarding Saturday’s rally, police “knew nothing of it” ahead of time, Major Gary Pleasants said at a press conference Monday.
“It was more than we expected and that’s my fault because I sent a sergeant and four officers and it wasn’t enough,” Pleasants said. “That won’t happen again and we are going to be prepared for any event that comes out, we will protect the constitutional right of everyone to protest as long as those protests are peaceful.”
Pleasants also stated that anyone planning a protest should notify law enforcement to ensure they can properly staff the event.
“It’s not possible for us to be prepared if we don’t know what’s occurring, and that’s what happened to us Saturday night,” Pleasants said. “We had no idea what was going on and by the time we got there it was already disorderly.”