WASHINGTON—With a rally in support of U.S. President Donald Trump scheduled to take place on the Mall Saturday, one of the best-known icons of the white nationalists who helped propel Trump to power said conservatives should be demonstrating against the president, not for him.
Richard B. Spencer, the Alexandria, Virginia, resident who coined the term “alt-right” and has become its omnipresent spokesman, said he had no plans to join the pro-Trump forces mustering in Washington in light of the president’s new willingness to shield illegal immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation.
“If anything, I would be protesting Trump this weekend,” Spencer said in an interview.
His comments came as the nation’s capital prepared to host what may be the year’s most motley collection of political rallies Saturday, including the demonstration in support of the president, anti-Trump counter protests and a demonstration by fans of the rap-metal group Insane Clown Posse, who are protesting their FBI designation as a criminal gang.
Police in the District have worried about friction among the groups along the lines of the clashes between white supremacists and left-wing demonstrators that led to deadly rioting in Charlottesville last month.
Spencer, who helped lead the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, said he doesn’t expect those who share his conservatism to show up in force Saturday.
“It’s a residue of an older conservatism,” he said of the scheduled pro-Trump demonstration. “It really doesn’t have much of anything to do with the alt right.”
Such distinctions could be lost on left-wing demonstrators in an overwhelmingly Democratic D.C. A Facebook group called “White Supremacists Out of Washington!” that was planning to gather at Farragut Square to protest the pro-Trump rally.
“The counter protest is to say, how can you defend someone who won’t condemn white supremacy,” said Nelini Stamp, an organizer of the counterprotest. After the violence in Charlottesville, Trump was heavily criticized for blaming protesters on “both sides” of the political spectrum rather than focusing on white supremacists.
Authorities had plans in place, including street restrictions, to keep order and separate the groups as necessary. Looming over them is the response in Charlottesville, where police were faulted for a slow reaction as the protest turned violent.
The D.C. Office of Police Complaints said in a statement that it would be monitoring the department’s handling of the rallies. The office was planning to deploy its staff with video and audio recording equipment throughout downtown Saturday.
D.C. police said there would be about 15 road closures around the Mall between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., including the 9th and 12th street tunnels. Parts of C, D and E streets NW near the Mall are also among the closures.
Metro announced that the Smithsonian station on the Mall will be closed. Trains on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines will run through the station Saturday but not stop.
The day’s most anticipated events are the march of the Juggalos—as Insane Clown Posse fans call themselves—and the pro-Trump rally, which its organizers have dubbed the “Mother of All Rallies.”
Jason Webber, an organizer of the Juggalo rally, said the group is apolitical but noted that many of the band’s songs decry bigotry. He said 3,000 people are planning to attend.
Peter Boykin, president of Gays for Trump and a speaker at the conservative rally, said he expects a crowd ranging from 1,000 to 2,000.
Webber and Boykin said they aren’t expecting brawls.
“We think Washington D.C. is a great, safe place to have a rally, and I’m not looking for a fight,” Boykin said.