Far-Left Vastly Outnumber White Nationalists as Unite the Right Rally Cut Short

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Far-left protesters vastly outnumbered white nationalists at opposing rallies in Washington, DC, on Sunday, the anniversary of last year’s Charlottesville rally.

Jason Kessler, who led the white nationalist rally in Virginia last year, and about two dozen other people were escorted by police as they arrived at Lafayette Park for the “Unite the Right 2” rally, where they were met by thousands of counter-protesters.

The counter-protesters, some dressed in black masks, helmets and body armor were separated from rally-goers by fences and about 50 feet of grass as they shouted “Nazis, go home” and “you are not welcome here!” Kessler delivered a speech largely drowned out by the voices of the counter-protesters.

After the brief rally came to an end before 5:30 p.m. EST—two hours before schedule—Kessler and the “Unite the Right 2” demonstrators were transported to the Rosslyn Metro station to board a train to Vienna, where they will be met by county police on hand to escort them to their cars as needed.

Asked for his thoughts on the small turnout, Kessler told the press he was not disappointed by it because of the rally’s peaceful nature. “We upheld free speech,” he declared while mobbed by reporters.

About 400 people were originally expected to attend Kessler’s “Unite the Right 2” rally, which was described as a “white civil rights rally” to protest “civil rights abuse in Charlottesville.” Kessler and members of anti-racist groups were both given permits from the National Park Service to demonstrate at the park on Sunday.

Nearly 1,000 protesters had already arrived at Freedom Plaza near Lafayette Park by 12:30 p.m. for one of several counter protests. “This place, this city, this country is a country of inclusivity and not white supremacy,” Rev. Graylan Hagler told a crowd at one event. “We are people that stand up for racial justice and racial inclusivity. We will not be silenced.”

Black Lives Matter D.C. was also scheduled to host the “Rise Up Fight Back Counter-Protest” between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. near the site of “Unite the Right 2.” Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said officers would work to keep the opposing protesters separate from each other and added guns and other weapons are prohibited near the cite of the rally, regardless of individual permits.

“Our role is to make sure we have a First Amendment event that goes on without any types of violence or destruction of property,” he said. “We intend to have the entire police department engaged to make sure that we handle this type of thing.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the city of Charlottesville declared states of emergency for Friday through Sunday to give state agencies the necessary tools to “perform actions outside the scope of normal operations.”

The declarations came after violence surrounding the 2017 Charlottesville demonstrations in which at least 30 people were injured and James Alex Fields Jr., was accused of driving his vehicle into a group of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer. Two Virginia State Police troopers also died that weekend when their helicopter, assisting with public safety during the rally, crashed August 12.

A makeshift memorial to Heyer was heavily barricaded. On Sunday morning, more than 100 anti-racism protesters congregated near police, wearing helmets and other protective gear, as helicopters and drones circled above, the Washington Post reported. Four people were arrested in connection to demonstrations in downtown Charlottesville.

President Donald Trump condemned all forms of racism in a tweet Saturday, ahead of the planned demonstrations. “The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to Americans!” the president wrote.

The message was met with similar criticism to Trump’s claim after last year’s demonstration that both groups were responsible for the violence in Charlottesville. “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” President Trump said at the time.

The United Press International contributed to this report. 


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