D.C. Authorities Brace for Charlottesville Anniversary Rally

 wsj.com  08/12/2018 11:02:20  3  Cameron McWhirter

White nationalists and counterprotesters are planning separate rallies in Washington, D.C., on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va.

Jason Kessler, the man who organized last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, will lead what is being billed as a “white civil rights rally” in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House on Sunday afternoon and evening.

Mr. Kessler said he expects fewer attendees than the hundreds of white nationalists and far-right supporters who came to Charlottesville last year. The National Park Service permit said between 100 and 400 people were expected to attend.

The parks department also approved several counterprotests to be held nearby, which are expected to draw thousands. D.C. police said they aim to keep the two sides apart to avoid confrontations.

“We’ve seen in the past when these two groups have been in the same area at the same time, it leads to violent confrontations,” said Peter Newsham, the Metropolitan Police Department chief of police.

Last August, white nationalists and far-right groups gathered in Charlottesville to protest efforts to remove a Confederate statue in a city park. Hundreds showed up for one of the largest far-right rallies in years, with some attendees brandishing swastikas and shouting Nazi slogans.

One counterprotester was killed and others were injured when a man drove a car into their group. Federal prosecutors charged a far-right sympathizer with a hate-crime act resulting in death and numerous other charges, and the man has pleaded not guilty. An independent review of the violence found the Charlottesville police response was “inadequate and disconnected,” and the police chief has since left.

President Trump, in a tweet on Saturday, condemned “all types of racism and acts of violence.” A year ago, his comments blaming “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville drew widespread criticism.

White nationalist rallies and protests held in the past year have been far smaller, as the groups have been weakened by infighting, lawsuits and other problems.

Police will be closing several streets near the White House on Sunday. Chief Newsham said carrying a firearm will be prohibited near the demonstrations on Sunday, even for people who have a permit to do so.

“We know that we have people coming to our city for the sole purpose of spewing hate,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “While we are opposed adamantly to the message that we will hear, we know what our responsibility is to protect First Amendment events, protect Washingtonians, and protect our city.”

Charlottesville remained peaceful on Saturday night. Hundreds of people gathered to protest racism, near the area where hundreds of white nationalists marched with torches and shouted Nazi slogans last year.

At one point, a group of people wearing anarchist badges and chanting against the police were met by dozens of police in riot gear. The group eventually retreated from police lines and marched through the city without major incident.

Write to Cameron McWhirter at cameron.mcwhirter@wsj.com

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