The initial police officer on the scene at the May 13 Lee Park demonstration of Richard Spencer’s alt-right gang described between 100 and 150 people carrying tiki-style torches, some of whom were in an argument with a man who was yelling at them to “leave my town,” according to a Charlottesville Police release.
That man was arrested the next night.
Jordan McNeish was charged with disorderly conduct at the Sunday, May 14, protest against the white nationalists who chanted “we will not be replaced,” “blood and soil” and “Russia is our friend,” the night before. His arrest, he says, goes back to Saturday night.
McNeish was playing music on the Downtown Mall when he heard the chanting, he says. He left his guitar with a friend and walked over to Lee Park to see what was going on. He encountered what looked “almost like a frat crowd,” he says.
He says he was expecting a group like Virginia Flaggers, who defend Confederate symbols like the Lee statue or Confederate battle flags as part of their heritage.
But instead of encountering heritage-not-haters, he came upon white nationalists.
“I asked them what they were about,” he says. “They said, ‘I’m white, you’re white, we’re here for white culture.’”
McNeish says, “I didn’t think they would be that extreme. They told me with such eagerness.”
And his reaction, he says, was, “that’s more hate. I told them to get out of my town.”
McNeish, 28, says he didn’t see any cops or any media when he approached the group, which he estimates at 30 people, although he says it could have been breaking up. “I was by myself,” he adds.
And for his trouble, he had a couple of lit cigarettes thrown at him Saturday night, he says. “I had blood on my nose.”
He was again playing music on Mother’s Day when he saw the candlelight gathering in Lee Park and learned it was a response to the night before.
“I saw Jason Kessler with a loud speaker being obnoxious,” he says. He doesn’t want to go into too much detail about the disorderly conduct charge in which police say he spit on Kessler, but he does say, “I didn’t realize a cop was behind me.”
Photos from the event also show McNeish slammed to the ground by police. McNeish says he doesn’t recall a lot about the sequence of events, but that “it looked worse than it was.”
“When people resist arrest, force is used,” Charlottesville Police Major Gary Pleasants said at a press conference the next day. He also defined disorder: “When you do something that leads to a breach of the peace.”
Kessler, too, was charged with disorderly conduct, as was Charles W. Best, 21, who also was charged with concealed carry of a switchblade and felony assault on law enforcement for allegedly clocking a cop on the head with a thrown cell phone.
McNeish’s previous claim to local fame was when he started the Jefferson Area NORML in 2012 and convinced City Council to pass a resolution to ask the governor and General Assembly to reconsider pot penalties and consider regulating marijuana like alcohol.
That came after McNeish spent six months in jail for a felony conviction for possessing 2.6 ounces of pot in 2009 when he was 20. In Virginia, possession of more than half an ounce is a felony distribution charge.
“I used to try to get attention for activism,” says McNeish. “Now, not so much.”