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In a powerful rebuke to the Nazis and white supremacists rallying in D.C. near the White House on August 12 for the one year anniversary of the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, thousands of counter-protesters took to the streets to condemn the racist viewpoints of rally organizer Jason Kessler and his supporters.
White supremacists and nationalists marching with “Unite the Right 2” went to meet counter-protesters at Lafayette Square in front of the White House in the late afternoon and ended up leaving before they were scheduled to speak. Police and a significant physical barrier—a stretch of the park separated by fences—were in place to keep the two groups apart. Counter-protest groups gathered at various locations in downtown D.C. in the morning and throughout the afternoon.
City Paper updated this post regularly on the day of the rallies.
Lafayette Square, just after 5 p.m.
“At this time, Kessler has left the District of Columbia,” comes from a megaphone. Some in the crowd break out singing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
Lafayette Square, just after 5 p.m.
About 10 minutes ago, a U.S. Park Police officer came up and told the crowd that it was done, and that it was over. This came about five minutes after we saw three white vans leave with the “Unite the Right 2” people in the vans. They were headed west. And then the officers just started working the line and telling people that it was over. A lot of people never even saw the white supremacists and the Nazis.
The counter-protesters are now applauding the police officers. The Unite the Right 2 people never came within 150 yards of the counter-protesters. They were never audible. They had American flags, but it was like they were just getting a photo op. Unite the Right 2 never was able to have a rally and do their thing. The mood is relaxed now.
Lafayette Square, 4:45 p.m.–5 p.m.
It’s pouring rain now, but that is not deterring people. Counter-protesters break out with a new chant: “You are few, we are many.” A few minutes later the whole square breaks out into a chant of, “Black lives matter.” As the rain falls, they just open umbrellas and keep doing their thing.
People start climbing trees to escape the rain and keep chanting.
Lafayette Square, 4:35 p.m.
The park is filled with protesters from all walks of life, an army of D.C. police officers, as well as about two dozen unidentified right wing marchers who have more protection than President Donald Trump himself. Everette Turner, 60, a resident of Northeast D.C., says he is here because “It’s 2018 and we don’t need this. There are better things that we can be doing that watching racist people.”
The crowd in the southwest corner of the park is chanting, “Hey hey, go home, neo-Nazis got to go.” There are other protesters chanting “cowards, cowards, cowards!”
Lafayette Square near 16th Street NW, 4 p.m.–4:20 p.m.
Loud thunder rolls as a small group of Nazis walks in. Calls of “Fuck you, Nazis” and loud booing rises to a crescendo. Someone yells, “Fuck you, MAGA shit heads!”
Lafayette Square, 3:45 p.m.
“We’re all human,” she says to shouts.
15th Street NW, 3:40 p.m.
As the counter-protesters march toward Lafayette Square, several stop and listen to the voice of the man singing on the sidewalk off 15th Street NW. The man with the guitar is singing his own rendition of “Stand By Me” by American singer-songwriter Ben E. King, made appropriate with a slight change in lyrics.
“No I won’t be afraid,” he sings. “No I won’t be afraid of KKK!”
The crowd cheers every time he sings that line. A few walk up to thank him and drop cash in the box at his feet.
“Thank you!” the man tells the crowd.
Lafayette Square, 3:30 p.m.
The anti-fascists are in the northwest corner of Lafayette Square.
Foggy Bottom, 3 – 4 p.m.
As they march from Foggy Bottom to Lafayette Square, Jason Kessler and his small cohort of fellow white supremacists are protected by dozens of police—on bicycles, on motorcycles, and in police vehicles.
Earlier this week, permit documents released by the National Park Service revealed that Kessler was expecting up to 400 participants. All told, fewer than two dozen people marched from Foggy Bottom to Lafayette Square, where the main rally took place.
Shawna Cohen left her home in Portland, Maine at 8 p.m. last night and drove straight to D.C. Cohen, 31, arrived in the District at 6 a.m., hours before a group of white supremacists marched in the streets. She says she has participated in numerous Black Lives Matter and immigration protests in Portland, but has never traveled to D.C. before to protest. Today’s counter-protests against the Unite the Right 2 rally felt like an important event to be a part of.
“I’m Jewish and … I’ve never been face-to-face with someone who has so much hatred toward me, so I felt like I needed to feel that, just to know what it is like,” she says.
At about 3 p.m., Cohen looks into the eyes of Kessler and other white supremacist as they are escorted out of the Foggy Bottom Metro by dozens of police officers.
Dozens of counter-protesters hurl the words “Go home, Nazis!” and “Fuck you!” at the white supremacists as they march to Lafayette Square. Though moments are tense, especially as the number of counter-protesters and media covering the spectacle multiplies, the police keep the white supremacists pretty well secluded. One protester gets close enough to the police escort to get the attention of one of the white supremacists. “Fuck you, Nazi scum!” he shouts as he locked eyes with him. The white supremacist just smiles and flips him the bird.
Freedom Plaza, 3 p.m.
“No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” they chant in unison, over and over again. Hundreds of counter-protesters, many holding signs from the International Socialists Organization, begin marching from Freedom Plaza to Lafayette Square at around 3 p.m.
A few speakers are still talking on the makeshift stage, but they quickly wrap up and join the march.
Up in front, members of the ISO hold a large banner as anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter flags are raised high above the crowd.
“Love not hate! That’s what makes America great!” the crowd chants, as they turn up 14th Street NW.
Freedom Plaza, 2:45 p.m.
As Kessler and his white supremacist supporters descend the escalators at the Vienna Metro, 31-year-old Larry Hutchinson is sitting on a step inside Freedom Plaza, smiling and posing for photos.
He holds up a sign that reads, “Hey racist, kiss my black ass.”
Counter protesters walk to Hutchinson, who is African American, to shake his hand. A few hours later, the Prince George’s County resident plans to walk over to Lafayette Square to protest Kessler.
“Sometimes you have to be direct,” he says. “I’m here to show I’m not afraid, I’m not scared, and I’m not going to accept it.”
Freedom Plaza, 2 p.m.–2:30 p.m.
Hundreds of people have converged at Freedom Plaza for one of the several counter-protest rallies across the city. Protesters are holding up hand made signs denouncing Trump and the white nationalist movement as activists on a makeshift stage sing and give impassioned speeches.
Trump Tower is blocks away—a backdrop to this protest.
“Black lives they matter here!” shouts one of the speakers. The crowd echoes the phrase in unison.
Lindsay, a school teacher from Alexandria who requested to remain anonymous, holds up a sign that reads “white silence = white violence.” People keep walking by to take photos of her sign. She came here with a dozen fellow members of Grassroots Alexandria.
“We’re here to defend democracy,” says the organization’s spokesperson Jonathan Krall, 58. “You need to do more than exist.”
People wearing anti-fascist shirts are also in the crowd, and at around 2 p.m. about a dozen protesters wearing black, with cloths tied around their faces, march through the plaza and up 13th Street NW. One of them holds a flag with the words “Anti-Fascist Action.”