Charlottesville rally organizer flees news conference

In this frame from video, Jason Kessler, a blogger based in Charlottesville, Va., speaks to the media on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Kessler, who organized the rally in Charlottesville on Saturday that sparked violent clashes between white supremacist groups and counter-protesters tried to hold a news conference, but a crowd booed him and forced him away from the lectern. (AP Photo)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (AP) — The organizer of a white nationalist rally in Virginia was chased away from a news conference Sunday, a day after the event erupted in violence and left three people dead.

Blogger Jason Kessler had to be escorted by law enforcement into a police station to avoid protesters. Video of the incident shows Kessler running with a police officer from an angry mob that heckled him, including a man who accused him of being responsible for the death of a woman killed during the anti-racism protests Saturday.

Kessler briefly made remarks before he fled, criticizing the people who were booing him.

“That hate that you hear around you, that is the anti-white hate,” Kessler said at his outdoor news conference in downtown Charlottesville.

He posted a video on social media saying police and city officials were responsible for the violence at Saturday’s rally, and criticized them for how they handled Sunday’s news conference.

“I knew going in that I was putting my life in my hands, that’s probably the last time I’m going to do that for quite some time,” said Kessler, who lives in Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia.

He also decried what he said has been slanted media coverage aimed at hurting President Donald Trump.

State police said they charged a Charlottesville man with misdemeanor assault and battery after a trooper observed him spit on Kessler.

The rally turned deadly Saturday when a car rammed into a group of people protesting against white supremacy. One woman was killed and 19 others were injured. A police helicopter monitoring the event later crashed, killing two troopers on board.

Kessler’s profile has risen in the self-described “alt-right” community — an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism — as he publicized his fight to prevent the city from moving a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park.

In May, he was one of three people arrested after scuffles broke out by the statue. Police said Kessler wouldn’t obey an officer’s commands to leave and was inciting others with a bullhorn. Later that month, he applied for a permit for Saturday’s rally, which he told The Associated Press was partly over the statue removal decision but also because an “anti-white climate.”

Kessler said he does not identify as a white nationalist but told the AP he is concerned about immigration creating an “ethnic cleansing” of white people.

Kessler said on his webpage that he’s a graduate of the University of Virginia and the author of a novel and a book on poetry. His novel, Badland Blues, is about a homeless dwarf who wins the lottery and his poetry is a rumination on “debauchery, madness loneliness and death,” according to descriptions on Amazon.

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