White nationalists gathering for the anniversary of the Unite the Right rally this weekend were far outnumbered. R&K Photo Editor Cengiz Yar reports from a (very) small Unite the Right rally in Washington, DC’s Lafayette Park.
It’s hard to call twenty individuals a movement. Flanked by police escorts, a small group of white nationalists walked through the streets of Washington, DC, on Sunday. The event’s organizer Jason Kessler had applied for a permit to organize 400 people for a “white civil rights rally” in Lafayette Park, but he was only able to muster some stragglers at best. The local police blocked the group from the thousands of counter-protesters who came out to mock and jeer them.
Last year’s rally in Charlottesville saw hundreds of white supremacist carrying torches and shouting racial chants including “You will not replace us”; the event resulted in violence and the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer who had been marching against the white supremacists. President Donald Trump blamed both sides for the violence, in comments that drew criticism from members of his own party. Washington, DC police said they were prepared to handle this year’s rally.
Kessler and his fellow white nationalists walked a mile from the Foggy Bottom metro station to Lafayette Park. During their 25 minutes on city streets, they were met with boos and curses; protesters carried signs reading “Nazi scum fuck off” and “Isn’t your mother ashamed?” They entered the permitted rally area in the park at around 3:30 p.m. and stayed less than an hour and a half before making a quick exit, driving away in police vans.
Meanwhile, thousands of counter-protesters from a variety of organizations, including Black Lives Matter and Antifa, among others showed up.
“I came out because this is a ‘fuck you’ to these guys,” said Austin Dalton, as he caught his breath from shouting at the white nationalists outside Lafayette Park. “This is my city. I grew up here!” Behind him, a group of about one hundred black-clad protesters shouted at the police for protecting the white nationalists.
The streets were filled with people marching, chanting, and holding signs opposing Nazism, racism, and hatred. “I think it’s the responsibility of white people to stand up against white supremacy,” said Jack Wille watching the commotion by herself and holding a bicycle. “When all these other brave individuals like immigrants and trans people that are more at risk stand up, how can I not?”
The protesters, counter-protesters, and bystanders also encountered the full force of the journalist/live-streamer/TV-crew bandwagon that has become a routine part of the United States political spectacle: Around 50 cameras (including mine) documented every incident or rumbling.
Around 4:40 p.m. the sky opened up, and rain sent almost everyone home. Soaking wet, I walked into an old restaurant that had the air conditioning on full blast and ordered swordfish and beer at the bar. The people in the packed bar were watching TV: the PGA championship was on. A couple joked about drinking too much for a Sunday. Outside, someone burned an alt-right Kekistan banner as a bunch of people took pictures of it.