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Alt-right rally organizer chased away amid chants of ‘indict for murder’

Posted at 3:11 PM, Aug 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-13 15:12:13-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – At 2 p.m. Sunday, the organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville attempted to address a crowd but was spit on and chased away from the microphone amid chants that he be indicted for murder.

Jason Kessler stood at the microphone next to a memorial  installed minutes earlier in memory of the lives lost at Saturday’s rally, but was only able to utter a few sentences before the crowd took over.

Police could be seen on the perimeter, flanking Kessler, who told the crowd he “would wait just a few more minutes to begin.”

The crowd was already chanting and blowing an air horn before he began to speak.

Kessler said he wanted to tell the public what really happened, before “a narrative continued to spin out of control.”

He did not start with mention of the three victims who died in connection to the rally: 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was run over by a demonstrator, and Virginia State Police officers Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates.

Kessler began gesturing at the gathered crowd and said the same crowd that could be heard booing him were the ones who fueled the violence. He then blamed the Charlottesville Police officers, who he said “refused to do their job” and failed to “follow through with security arrangements” that protected protesters and counter protesters.

As he continued to blame multiple parties, the assembled crowd – who he said were “anti-white” -- grew louder.

He then talked about the legitimacy of his permit, and the court injunction that occurred late Friday night. Kessler was represented by the ACLU and they won the right for the rally to be held at the Emancipation Park, though police had tried to move, for safety reasons, the event over to a larger staging area.

Kessler said previously that symbolism would be lost if they were not at the park where earlier in the spring City Council voted to remove a Confederate statue.

After blaming a lot of people, Kessler then condemned “any violence” that happened Saturday. “I disavow anything that led to folks getting hurt. It really is a sad day in our constitutional democracy when we are not able to have civil liberties like the First Amendment – that leads to rational discussion --that is what leads to ideas breaking down and people resorting to violence.”

At that point, the crowds chanting profanity grew louder and a man walked up to Kessler with both his middle fingers extended.

Other people rushed forward and Kessler was swept away in a sea of media and demonstrators where the chants “indict for murder now” and “he invited these people” could be heard.

Kessler yelled one more thing before completely disappearing: “I’ll be in Washington tomorrow.”

He was escorted away by the police.

Officials said Robert K. Litzenberger of Charlottesville was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery after a state trooper witnessed Litzenberger spit on Kessler as he was walking away.

State police officials said that because the charge was a misdemeanor, Litzenberger was released on an unsecured bond.

Richard Spencer, one of the co-organizers of the event, declined to appear at today’s press conference. There is one slated for Washington D.C. on Monday, where speakers from the canceled event will also be present.

The rally 

Protesters wielding sticks and cans of pepper spray clashed during a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Saturday morning.

White nationalists and other right-wing groups fought fist to fist with counter-protesters who called themselves antifa, the opposition to fascist ideologies, groups and individuals.

"No Nazis, no KKK, no facists, USA," chanted hundreds while a group of men and women wearing black carrying Confederate flags walked into Emancipation Park.

Protesters filled East Market Street hours before the scheduled noon rally often throwing bottles and sticks at each other. Many were toting shields and wearing body armor.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency “to aid state response to violence” around 11 a.m. and the National Guard was activated to help remove the clashing protesters from Emancipation Park and the streets.

The alt-right protesters then moved to McIntire Park about two miles away to regroup and hear from their leaders, like David Duke.

People filled the streets

Heyer was killed when a car plowed into the dispersed crowd at about 1:42 p.m.

“A Dodge Challenger was traveling south on 4th Street at a high rate of speed when it rear-ended a sedan headed south on 4th Street. The impact of that crash pushed the sedan into the minivan in front of it. The minivan had slowed for a crowd of people crossing through the intersection,” a spokeswoman for the City of Charlottesville said. “The impact of the crash pushed the vehicles into the crowd of pedestrians. The Dodge Challenger fled the scene, but was located and stopped a short time later by Charlottesville Police.”

The driver of the Dodge Challenger, identified as James A. Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, was taken into custody and charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit-and-run.

McAuliffe called Fields a terrorist who weaponized a car.

Heather Heyer

Multiple death and injuries

Two Virginia State Patrol troopers were killed in a helicopter crash while assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville.

Resident Robby Noll said  he saw the VSP helicopter crash and said it sounded like the helicopter experienced a mechanical problem before it fell to the ground killing the two men inside.

Noll was outside doing yard work Saturday when he said he looked up and saw the helicopter.

"It was very apparent that the pilot was trying to gain control of the craft," Noll said. "It appeared to honestly invert to turn upside down."

Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty said the troopers' deaths are a tremendous loss for the agency and the Commonwealth.

“Our state police and law enforcement family at-large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day,” Flaherty said. "Lieutenant Cullen was a highly-respected professional aviator and Trooper-Pilot Bates was a welcome addition to the Aviation Unit, after a distinguished assignment as a special agent with our Bureau of Criminal Investigation.”

Both were close to the first family of Virginia.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jay and Berke, both of whom were our close friends and trusted members of our team," the McAuliffes said in a released statement. "Jay has flown us across the commonwealth for more than three and a half years. Berke was devoted to our entire family as part of our Executive Protective Unit team for the past three years."

Officials denounce rally

McAuliffe had a pointed message for the right-wing groups that flocked to Charlottesville on Saturday: "Go home. ... You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you."

In addition to the one death and 19 injuries in the car-ramming incident, the city said there were at least 15 other injuries associated with the scheduled rally.

"I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here. I urge all people of good will -- go home," Mayor Mike Signer wrote on Twitter.

The investigation

Federal authorities launched a civil rights investigation hours after the incident.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said US Attorney Rick Mountcastle is leading the investigation.

"The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice. When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated," Sessions said in a statement. "Justice will prevail."

For complete coverage of the chaos in Charlottesville, click here. 

***CNN Wire contributed to this report***