This time last year, the US was rocked by a white nationalist rally in Charlottesburg, Virginia which resulted in the death of protester Heather Heyer. An attempt to reignite white nationalist forces has fallen flat, however, with only around 20 to 40 people attending this year's Washington D.C rally.
The white supremacists were heavily guarded at the rally by police and were outnumbered with thousands of counterprotesters with signs and banners denouncing racism and fascism.
The rally moved to Lafayette Square, just north of the White House, but ended early and was over by 5.30pm, the scheduled start time.
Some of the protesters carried American flags and wore hats bearing the motto of Trump’s presidential campaign ‘Make America Great Again’.
The counterprotesters lining the rally path chanted “no hate, no fear, KKK is not welcome here,” and carried signs that read “solidarity trumps hate.”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2018
This seems a little too coherently scripted for Trump to have written it alone, but the general point is true: he’s still doing that “both sides” thing, which sounds fine on the face of it – to people who are willing & able to forget that one side is nazis & pro-slavery thugs. https://t.co/JRTg5KPbxs
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) August 12, 2018
Trump tweets about the ‘Unite the Right 2’ rally
US President Donald Trump drew heavy criticism last year after he declined to denounce the first instalment of the rally, titled ‘Unite the Right’, but commented there were “very fine people on both sides”.
This year, he changed his rhetoric, instead denouncing “all types of racism and acts of violence”.
Andrew Stroelhein, European Media Director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted that Trump was “still doing that “both sides” thing, which sounds fine on the face of it – to people who are willing & able to forget that one side is nazis & pro-slavery thugs.”
Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s senior advisers, told ABC’s This Week that Trump was denouncing the white supremacists and neo-Nazis gathering at the rally but the media was “just not covering” the president’s repeated denunciations of fascism.
“He’s calling for unity among all Americans and he denounced all forms of bigotry and acts of violence and racism,” she said.
Counterprotester Heather Heyer died and more than a dozen others were injured at last year’s event after a white supremacist drove a car into several people. The driver, James Fields, was later charged with federal hate crimes.
Constance Young, who survived the car attack at Charlottesburg, was among those who addressed the assembled counterprotesters. “If we dont say: ‘Not here, not now’ this violence will keep happening on our watch.” she said.
A group of white nationalists marched through downtown Washington, DC, during the Unite the Right 2 rally and were met with thousands of counter-protesters denouncing racism. https://t.co/azLWoQVvNj
— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) August 12, 2018
White supremacists “very scared” after last year’s event
The event’s organiser, Jason Kessler, blamed law enforcement at last year’s Charlottesville rally for the low turnout. There has also been widespread infighting among the white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups.
“There were a lot of people who were at last year’s rally who are very scared this year,” he said. “They felt like last year they came to express their point of view. They were attacked. And when they fought back, they were overly prosecuted.”
Richard Spencer, a prominent member of the alt-right and president of a white supremacist think tank, said he would not be attending the rally. “I don’t know exactly what will happen,” he said “but it will not be good”.
Today, racists have planned “Unite The Right 2” in Washington, DC on the anniversary of their deadly rally in Charlottesville. https://t.co/HbzUl3qja3
— Hatewatch (@Hatewatch) August 12, 2018
Kessler had previously estimated 400 people would attend the event, which was described as a “white civil rights rally”.
The permit application for the rally had listed a number of white supremacist speakers including David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan and John Fitzgerald, who was barred from a Congress run as a Republican when he denied the Holocaust. Tom Kawczynski, a former town manager in Maine who was fired for advocating racial segregation, was also on the bill.