WASHINGTON (AP) — Government and police officials in the nation’s capital say they are confident the city can manage this weekend’s planned white nationalist rally without violence.
Meanwhile Washington’s robust local activist community is also gearing up for counter-protests.
The Unite the Right 2 rally will take place Sunday afternoon in Lafayette Park in front of the White House. The rally is timed for the one-year anniversary of the first Unite the Right in Charlottesville, Virginia, which devolved into chaos and violence resulting in the death of a counter-protester.
Estimates vary on how many white nationalist protesters will show up. Jason Kessler, who also organized the Charlottesville rally, predicted 400 in his permit application, but turnout could be much lower.
The white nationalist movement has partially splintered in the past year, with some blaming Kessler for the bad press generated by Charlottesville. Several white nationalist leaders have disavowed Sunday’s rally and asked their followers not to attend.
Rally participants are likely to be outnumbered by passionate counter-protesters. At least two separate anti-white nationalist rallies will also be taking place in Lafayette Park. The local chapter of Black Lives Matter is also planning a separate march to the site.
With Charlottesville police widely criticized for their handling of last year’s rally, D.C. authorities are vowing to prevent violence. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Peter Newsham have promised a massive security mobilization to keep protesters and counter-protesters apart.
“We have a number of techniques to keep them separate,” Newsham said. “We’re accustomed to protests in Washington and the rules are pretty simple: don’t hurt anyone and don’t break anything.”
While the White House will be the backdrop of the rallies, President Donald Trump will not be in town.