'Unite the Right' organizer punched in face, flees press confere - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

'Unite the Right' organizer punched in face, flees press conference

A protester punched "Unite the Right" organizer Jason Kessler (Source: NBC12) A protester punched "Unite the Right" organizer Jason Kessler (Source: NBC12)
Jason Kessler was chased away from a press conference on Sunday. (Source: NBC12) Jason Kessler was chased away from a press conference on Sunday. (Source: NBC12)
Heather Heyer (Source: GoFundMe) Heather Heyer (Source: GoFundMe)
Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates (Source: VA State Police) Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates (Source: VA State Police)
Alex Fields Jr. (Source: Charlottesville Police) Alex Fields Jr. (Source: Charlottesville Police)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WWBT) -

The "Unite the Right" organizer Jason Kessler planned on holding a press conference at 2 p.m., a day after deadly protests in the city.

However, the press conference was drowned out by counter-protesters, who at the end of the press conference chased Kessler away.

One protester punched Kessler as the crowds surrounded him.

Warning: video contains foul language and gestures.




Due to the extended violence and safety concerns, the vigil for Heather Heyer, the victim killed on Saturday, has been postponed.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe visited a Charlottesville church Sunday morning. He called out the "neo-Nazis" and white supremacists, saying "there is no place for you here in Charlottesville, there is no place for you in Virginia, and there is no place for you in the United States of America. We deplore your hatred, your bigotry...and shame on you."

Late Saturday night, the FBI announced it has opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack that took place during the clashes of white nationalists and counter-protesters. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says, "the violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice."

A 32-year old woman, identified as Heather Heyer, was transported to UVA Hospital, where she was declared deceased.

The driver, James Alex Fields Jr. from Ohio, is in jail and facing second-degree murder charges.

The suspect's mother is speaking out on her 20-year-old son's arrest. She says she was aware of his alt-right political views, but before he left for Charlottesville, she told him to be careful.

A heart-shaped memorial has been created at the scene of the fatal attack.

Crews with Parks and Recreation have begun cleaning up the streets, and more officers have arrived on scene, including Virginia State Police troopers. They are patrolling in Emancipation Park, where a vigil is being held tonight for the victims run down by a car. 19 others were hurt in the attack, and five are in critical condition.

Fields was not the only one who was arrested on Saturday. Overnight, State Police arrested three more people in connection to the violence:

  • Troy Dunigan, 21, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. 
  • Jacob L. Smith, 21, of Louisa, Virginia, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault & battery. 
  • James M. O’Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Florida, was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed handgun.

Virginia State Police and federal aviation officials are also investigating a helicopter crash that killed two State Police officers who were responding and trying help stop the chaotic violence in Charlottesville.

The pilot, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, is from Midlothian. Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates is from Quinton, in New Kent County.

Late Saturday night, the Richmond Fire Department honored both fallen state police officers from an I-95 overpass, as they were transported back home.

Firefighters stood and saluted their sacrifice with fire engines lit.

Lt. Cullen leaves behind a wife and two sons. He served with State Police for 23 years. The Virginia State Police Superintendent Colonel Flaherty called Lt. Cullen a highly respected professional aviator.

Colonel Flaherty also gave Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates high praise. He's a 13-year veteran of State Police, first working as a special agent and then joining the Aviation Unit.

Trooper Pilot Bates would have turned 41 years old on Aug. 13. He leaves behind his wife, a son and a daughter.

Both the pilot Lt. Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates were flying in a State Police helicopter on Saturday when it went down just before 5 p.m. in a wooded area. State police confirm the officers were heading to Charlottesville to give additional back up.

Because of all the violence, Charlottesville City Council passed an emergency ordinance allowing the police chief to regulate or restrict any public gathering of folks in the city. The chief can also set a curfew for the entire city or specific areas. He hasn't done either yet. Governor McAuliffe didn't hold back during a press conference on Saturday, telling the white nationalists to just go home.

"I have a message to the white supremacists and Nazis who came into Charlottesville: go home. You are not wanted in this great Commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend you're patriots - but you are anything but a patriot," said Governor McAuliffe.

"What the world saw today is not the place Charlottesville is. We love our city. Let us heal. This is not our story. Outsiders do not tell our story. We will tell our own story," said Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas.

Charlottesville's mayor also spoke at the conference -- saying the outsiders who brought their "intolerance and hatred" to the city, belong in the "trash heap of history"




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