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Charlottesville Group Claim Police Brutality in Connection to KKK Rally

Posted: Updated: Jul 14, 2017 08:57 PM
Officers in riot gear facing off with protesters on East Jefferson Street after a rally by a KKK group in Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE) Officers in riot gear facing off with protesters on East Jefferson Street after a rally by a KKK group in Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE)
Members of Solidarity Cville holding a press conference in front of the Charlottesville Police Department Members of Solidarity Cville holding a press conference in front of the Charlottesville Police Department
Emily Gorcenski reading a statement to the press Emily Gorcenski reading a statement to the press
Mimi Arbeit Mimi Arbeit
Officers in riot gear facing off with protesters on East Jefferson Street after a rally by a KKK group in Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE) Officers in riot gear facing off with protesters on East Jefferson Street after a rally by a KKK group in Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

A Charlottesville group connected to counterprotesters is demanding justice after it claims law enforcement engaged in police brutality.

Solidarity Cville held a press conference outside the Charlottesville Police Department Friday, July 14. Members of the group are calling on authorities to drop charges against the 22 people arrested Saturday, July 8.

Around 50 supporters and members of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Justice Park last Saturday. Over 1,000 people crowded around the park, many of whom actively protesting the Klan’s event.

City officials say police used tear gas after the rally to disperse a crowd of people blocking the KKK group from leaving the area. Eleven people arrested on Saturday are facing a charge of obstructing free passage, while four people are charged with obstruction of justice. The people were crowding the street as the KKK were trying to leave after the rally.

Members of Solidarity Cville believe the arrests were "unwarranted," that the protesters were mostly peaceful, and that there was no need for a police to use riot gear and tear gas.

"The brutality enacted by the Charlottesville police on the Charlottesville community sits in stark contrast to the patient provided to the KKK," said Mimi Arbeit with Solidarity Cville.

"I was holding the arm of a man next to me who I didn't know, and he was hit three times by a police shield and forced to the ground,” said Solidarity Cville member Emory Myer. “We were already on the sidewalk."

"Three community members were arrested and charged with felony masking because they used their shirts and scarves to protect themselves from chemical agents released by the police," Don Gathers said.

Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas agreed that the counterprotesters were generally peaceful, but he supports the decision by officers to use tear gas.

Solidarity Cville says protesters did not have enough time to clear the area before police declared the gathering on East Jefferson Street as an "unlawful assembly," and deployed tear gas.

"Charlottesville residents can't clear out of a Dave Matthews show in under an hour, yet the police declared a peaceful crowd to be an unlawful assembly within minutes of the KKKs departure. This is an ineffective police strategy that only leads to escalation and the likelihood of violence," said Solidarity Cville member Emily Gorcenski.

Charlottesville Police Lt. Steve Upman released the following statement to NBC29:

"We are continuing to view information related to the rally and will release accurate information at the appropriate time."

After their press conference, the group went inside Charlottesville General District Court to support one of the protesters arrested from the rally.

The rest of those who are facing misdemeanor charges will be in court Monday, July 17, for their first appearances. Four people are charged with wearing a mask in public, a felony.

Solidarity Cville is also joining Charlottesville Showing Up for Racial Justice’s (SURJ) call to city leaders to prevent white activist Jason Kessler from holding his "Unite the Right” rally at Emancipation Park on August 12.

Kessler said his rally is in support of keeping the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park, previously known as Lee Park.

Members of Charlottesville City Council have been attempting to remove the statue of Lee. Councilors unanimously approved to rename Lee Park and Jackson Park - now Emancipation and Justice parks - during their meeting on June 5.

Kessler has invited National Policy Institute President Richard Spencer to speak at the August rally. Spencer, a white supremacist, has participated in rallies at both Charlottesville parks earlier this year.

“We really don't want to have to deal with this again," said Gathers.

Kessler is the founder and president of Unity and Security for America, which has described itself as "dedicated to defending Western Civilization including its history, culture and peoples while utterly dismantling Cultural Marxism."

Two applications have been filed for demonstration permits at McGuffey and Justice parks to counter the event at Emancipation Park.