Washington: Police were out in force in Washington on Sunday ahead of a white nationalist rally that was organised to coincide with the anniversary of last year's racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The "Unite the Right 2" event was set to take place at 5.30pm (7.30am AEST) in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House. Several demonstrations by counter-protesters, who were expected to outnumber the white nationalists, were being held nearby.
White supremacist Jason Kessler arrives at the Vienna metro station to travel to Washington on the first anniversary of their rally in Charlottesville.
There was an enormous police presence to keep both sides apart and avoid the street brawls that broke out last year in downtown Charlottesville. A local woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when an Ohio man, James Fields, drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
At the time, President Donald Trump said there were "very fine people" on both sides, spurring criticism from across the political divide that he was equating the counter protesters with the rally attendees, who included neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.
On Saturday, Trump condemned "all types of racism" in a Twitter post marking the anniversary – a marked departure from his response to the violence in Charlottesville where he blamed "both sides".
In Washington on Sunday, counter-protesters organised an afternoon program of music, speeches and poetry readings at Freedom Plaza, east of the White House.
Counter demonstrators wait for the far-right rally in Washington.
Sean Kratouil, a 17-year-old who lives in Maryland, was wearing a vest with "Antifa" on the back and said he was there to help start a movement of peaceful anti-fascists. He said he was concerned that when rallies turn violent, it makes his side look bad. "Public perception is key," he said.
Counter-protesters also gathered near the Washington suburban metro station of Vienna, Virginia, where about 20 white nationalists carrying American flags were escorted onto a train to the city. Some counter-protesters yelled "Nazi scum!" at them as they were shepherded through the station.
The group was led by the organiser of Unite the Right 2, Virginia activist and blogger Jason Kessler.
Groups protest in Freedom Plaza, Washington, with the US Capitol in the background.
Dressed in a blue suit and carrying a megaphone over his shoulder, he said the rally was aimed at advocating for "free speech for everybody", and he blamed last year's violence in Charlottesville on other groups and the media.
"I'm not a white supremacist. I'm not a neo-Nazi," Kessler said as the train rolled towards Washington, where hundreds of counter-protesters and more police awaited his group.
In the picturesque college town of Charlottesville, hundreds of police officers had maintained a security perimeter around the normally bustling downtown district throughout the day on Saturday. Vehicular traffic was barred from an area of more than 15 city blocks, while pedestrians were allowed access at two checkpoints where officers examined bags for weapons.
On Sunday morning, activist Grace Aheron, 27, donned a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and joined hundreds of fellow Charlottesville residents who gathered at Booker T. Washington Park to mark the anniversary of last year's bloodshed.
"We want to claim our streets back, claim our public space back, claim our city back," Aheron said at the park.
Several events were scheduled in the city including a gathering that will include veteran civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton and Susan Bro, the mother of the woman who was killed a year ago.
Source: Read Full Article