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Three Arrested, Facing Charges at Take Back Lee Park Rally

Posted: Updated: May 27, 2017 11:30 AM
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Three men are in trouble with the Charlottesville Police Department for causing chaos at a rally Sunday night, May 14, in Lee Park.

The Take Back Lee Park rally was in response to an alleged white nationalist gathering in the park on Saturday night.

On Saturday, May 13, protesters gathered with lit torches to show their opposition to Charlottesville City Council's vote to remove the statue of confederate General Robert E. Lee from Lee Park. Earlier that day, tensions ran high in Jackson Park when protesters against the removal of the statue took on supporters.

Sunday night’s rally was peaceful minus the exception of three men facing charges, including one facing a felony.

"It was basically a peaceful protest in response to what we all woke up to Sunday morning, that appalling picture we saw," Charlottesville City Councilor Bob Fenwick said.

Jordan C. McNeish, 28, of Afton and 33-year-old well-known Charlottesville blogger Jason E. Kessler each face a disorderly conduct charge.

Witnesses at the rally say the two got into a scuffle and McNeish spit in Kessler's face over a disagreement over the decision to remove the Robert E. Lee statue.

Charles W. Best, 21, from Richmond faces a felony charge for assault and battery on a law enforcement officer, a charge for disorderly conduct, and a charge for carrying a concealed weapon.

During the last minutes of Sunday's rally, officers had to break up several disorders that occurred. One officer suffered a minor injury to his head after being hit with an object thrown from the crowd. Officers determined that Best was the one who threw the object.

"When people resist arrest the force is used against them. So the best way to not get force used against you is to not resist arrest," Major Gary Pleasants of Charlottesville Police Department said.

After being arrested, police found a fully automatic opening knife on Best when they searched him.

Best appeared in court through video Monday, May 15, and has bond set at $5,000. He has a hearing scheduled for Thursday, June 22.

Kessler and McNeish are due scheduled to appear in court Wednesday, May 17.

Kessler was given suspended jail time last week for an assault charge from an incident on the Downtown Mall in January. He is also due in Charlottesville General District Court in June for a charge he filed against a woman accused of stealing his phone during a protest in Lee Park back in February.

City councilors say a balance needs to be established for understanding history, and addressing monuments that may not represent the city.

"We do have these large monuments to Confederate heroes in our parks but that doesn't mean that that's what we support in our daily lives," councilor Kristin Szakos said.

Police and councilors say peaceful protesting is a right, but community disruption will not be tolerated.

"Once they are not peaceful anymore, then we'll stop them," Pleasants said.

"We love being an inclusive community. We don't do it perfectly. We have to do a better job at it," Szakos said.

Charlottesville Police Department Press Release:

While monitoring the rally at Lee Park last night 05/14/2017, Charlottesville Police officers had to respond to several incidents of disorderly conduct that lead to three people being arrested.

Officers arrested Charles W. Best a 21 year old male from Richmond, Va. for assault and battery on law enforcement (Va Code 18.2-57C) as well as disorderly conduct (Va Code 18.2-415) and carrying a concealed weapon (Va Code 18.2-308M). The weapon in question was fully automatic opening knife.

Also arrested were Jordan C. McNiesh a 28 year old male from Afton, Va. and Jason E. Kessler a 33 year old male from Charlottesville, Va. Both were charged with disorderly conduct (Va Code 18.2- 415).

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. Charles W. Best was identified as the individual who threw the object and was taken in to custody. During a search of his person incident to arrest the automatic opening knife was located on his person.

The disorderly conduct arrest of Jordan C. McNeish was related to him spitting on Jason Kessler. Jason E. Kessler’s arrest for disorderly conduct is related to his activities while at the park in which he would not obey officer’s commands to leave the area as well as inciting others while using a bull horn.