Aug. 12 (UPI) — Anti-racist protesters gathered in Washington D.C. on Sunday to oppose a white nationalist rally on the anniversary of last year’s Charlottesville rally in which a woman was killed.
About 400 people are expected to attend the “Unite the Right 2” rally, described as a “white civil rights rally” to protest “civil rights abuse in Charlottesville” organized by Jason Kessler, who also organized the original “Unite the Right” event in Virginia last year that was attended by white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan.
The event is expected to be held at 5:30 p.m in Lafayette Park, where attendees will be met by thousands of people protesting the rally near the park and in various locations throughout the capital.
Kessler and 20 to 30 supporters were escorted by police in riot gear as they arrived at the Vienna Metro station around 2 p.m.
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 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.”
Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said officers will 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 counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer. Two Virginia State Police troopers also died that weekend when their helicopter, assisting with public safety during the rally, crashed Aug. 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.
“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 ALL Americans!” Trump 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,” Trump said at the time.