WASHINGTON — A year after the race-fueled violence in Charlottesville, Va., white nationalists planned to gather in front of the White House on Sunday evening to mark the anniversary of their deadly rally, with thousands of counterprotesters poised to oppose their message.While the city braced for the possibility of violence, the usual Sunday morning calm…
WASHINGTON — A year after the race-fueled violence in Charlottesville, Va., white nationalists planned to gather in front of the White House on Sunday evening to mark the anniversary of their deadly rally, with thousands of counterprotesters poised to oppose their message.
While the city braced for the possibility of violence, the usual Sunday morning calm prevailed in downtown Washington. Groups of about a half-dozen police officers in neon yellow vests were stationed at street corners, and police signs posted on lampposts declared that the possession of firearms was prohibited for the day.
At Lafayette Square in front of the White House, where the white nationalists and counterdemonstrators planned to rally, a maze of barricades had been erected to manage the two sides once they arrived in the evening. Stacks of placards calling for an end to white supremacy lay on the grass. And a handful of counterdemonstrators, including some Black Lives Matter activists, gave interviews to television cameras on the sidewalk.
By midmorning, law enforcement officers had cleared out the park.
In Charlottesville, a rally and march opposing white supremacy was held on the University of Virginia campus. The university created a designated space for the protest and declined to allow the protesters to meet where fighting took place last year: at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson.
wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. “We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”
the deadly Charlottesville rally to single out white nationalists, instead blaming “both sides” for the violence, and appearing to draw a moral equivalence between hate groups and counterprotests.
The rally on Sunday, called Unite the Right II, is scheduled to take over Lafayette Square for two hours in the evening. The Unite the Right group plans to have up to 400 people at the rally, according to the permit it received from the National Park Service, though the number in attendance could be considerably smaller.
An antiracism group, the Answer Coalition, was granted a permit in Lafayette Square for a group more than three times the size of Unite the Right’s. At least two groups of counterprotesters have permits to gather at the Lincoln Memorial.
On Sunday afternoon, white nationalists are scheduled to march from Foggy Bottom, a neighborhood just west of the White House, to the small quadrant of Lafayette Square they are designated to occupy. A counterprotest group is scheduled to march to the same place from the opposite direction, just east of the White House in Freedom Plaza.
Once the formal program begins, Jason Kessler, who helped organize last year’s Charlottesville rally, is scheduled to speak to the crowd, as is David Duke, the former politician and Ku Klux Klan leader.
The Park Service, which permits around 750 First Amendment demonstrations annually in the national capital region, granted one last week to Mr. Kessler. “In anyone’s recollection, there has never been a First Amendment permit that’s been denied,” said Mike Litterst, a Park Service spokesman. “There wasn’t much discussion or question of whether or not it would be issued.”
killing a 32-year-old woman, Heather D. Heyer.warned in a letter on Monday to the Park Service that it was possible that tension between groups could lead to the same kind of violence that occurred in Portland, Ore., last weekend, where a right-wing rally turned violent after, the police said, a group began throwing rocks and bottles at officers.
Mr. Murray wrote that some of the same counterprotesters who seized downtown streets at the presidential inauguration in January 2017 were also interested in Sunday’s demonstrations, and were “known to have engaged in violent and destructive activity.” Members of the sometimes violent movement known as antifa are expected to be among the counterprotesters on Sunday.
Muriel E. Bowser, the Washington mayor, activated the city’s emergency operations center on Thursday. At a news conference on Thursday, she said that Unite the Right participants were an anomaly among visitors to Washington.
“Very few of our visitors share the views that will be expressed in Lafayette Square this weekend,” she said.