The planned protests on the anniversary of the violence in Charlottesville began in Washington, D.C., Sunday afternoon with large groups of counter-protesters demonstrating in Lafayette Park across from the White House — awaiting the arrival Unite the Right and white supremacist supporters.
One of the best known Unite the Right leaders, Jason Kessler, has started to march toward the park. Dozens of D.C. police wearing yellow reflective vests encircled Kessler and his few supporters, and slowly moved with them as marched.
The crowd of onlookers and media appeared larger than the number of protesters from the right.
The 2018 Unite the Right Rally in the nation’s capital Sunday was expected to draw various extremist groups, including some of the white supremacist and white nationalist organizations present in Charlottesville last year.
Several memorial events are planned in Charlottesville, where a counter-protester to a Unite the Right rally was killed when a driver barreled into a group walking on the street last year. Two state police troopers also died that day, Aug. 12, 2017, in a helicopter crash.
This weekend, however, events in Washington, D.C., are drawing greater attention.
Permits for protests have been granted in different parts of Washington, D.C., with the Unite the Right organizers planning to march from a Metro station to Lafayette Square Park, directly opposite the White House.
A number of counter-protesting groups have also had permits approved in the city, including groups like Black Lives Matter and an individual who plans to burn a Confederate flag.
The various groups have different, and ever-changing, plans for their transportation routes and the paths of possible marches, but the major hub of activity will be based around Lafayette Park.
The original Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville was to oppose plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park. It was met by counter-protests, and violent confrontations broke out between the two groups.
On Saturday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to denounce the deadly protests that took place in Charlottesville last year. He tweeted, “The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!
Last year, Trump drew scrutiny for a series of comments he made in the wake of the killing of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was protesting the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. At first, he condemned violence on “many sides.”
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said at a press conference in New Jersey on Aug. 12, 2017.
Amid criticism for his original comment, Trump delivered a statement at the White House two days later that seemed to walk back his earlier remark and specifically called out racist groups.
“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” he said.
The following day, Trump appeared to double down on his initial remark and suggested that “both sides” were to blame.
“You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” Trump said at a press conference at Trump Tower in New York City on Aug. 15.