D.C.-area officials are preparing for the weekend’s “white civil rights” rally with more police on the streets, road closures and changes to Metro service.
As many as 400 people are expected to attend the “Unite the Right” rally at 5 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Park Service, which approved the rally permit. Rally participants will march from Foggy Bottom Metro Station to Lafayette Square, across from the White House.
The National Park Service also approved four counterprotests organized by the Democratic Socialists of America and other groups, which are expected to attract about 2,600 people.
Weekend clashes between far-right marchers and left-wing counterprotesters in Portland, Oregon, could presage similar violence in the District this weekend. But D.C. police said Monday they will keep the two groups apart, without providing any specifics.
Metropolitan Police spokeswoman Alaina Gertz said the department is warning motorists “to proceed with caution” around the rally site on Sunday.
There “will be impacts to traffic that may include full road closures and rolling road closures,” Ms. Gertz said, adding that specific closures will depend on how many people participate in the events.
Sunday’s rally will mark the first anniversary of the violent gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, where self-identified white supremacists battled leftist counterprotesters, one of whom died when a man drove a car into their group. Suspect James Alex Fields Jr. has pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges.
Many rally-goers and some counterprotesters openly carried firearms last year in Virginia, which is an open-carry state. D.C. police said rally attendees and counterprotesters must follow the District’s ban on firearms.
Also, rally organizer Jason Kessler said in an email that, unlike the Charlottesville event, there will be no Tiki torch march in the District, except perhaps at a press conference.
On Friday, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, will host a town hall on extremist groups in American society with fellow Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland. Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy will speak on a panel on responding to hatred. The “teach-in” will run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Northwest.
“As we continue to see hate speech rise across the country, it is critical to find constructive and nonviolent ways to address those we disagree with and help educate the public,” Ms. Norton said Monday in a statement.
Counterprotest organizers hit a snag in their plans late last month, when Facebook removed pages suspected of “inauthentic” activity possibly linked to Russian operatives.
Chelsea Manning, the former government leaker who ran for a Senate seat in Maryland, joined with local activists from Black Lives Matter and Workers Against Racism to declare that the “Resistors” group consists of real people, but their effort to have the group’s Facebook event page reinstated failed. The coalition of activists have since created a new event page, “Nazis Not Welcome No Unite The Right 2,” to which more than 1,800 people have responded.
Metro said it will beef up security as the two groups take trains downtown. The agency said Monday it is “giving special consideration to the security challenges posed by railcar space constraints” and will cooperate with D.C. police, Virginia State Police, Fairfax County Police and the U.S. Secret Service.
Metro also said it will enforce its usual ban on “large coolers, combustible liquids, explosives, or any item inherently dangerous.”
Metro Transit Police can restrict access to stations for safety reasons at any time, the transit agency said, adding “To be absolutely clear, Metro is not preparing a ‘special train’ for the private use of any group.”
The statement comes days after Metro’s largest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said the transit agency was considering offering “private cars” to the white supremacists.