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White supremacists rally in Washington fizzles out as counter protesters outnumber them

Only about two dozens of white supremacists showed up at the White House with the chief organiser Jason Kessler, who had earlier told a reporter his intention was to assert his right to speech and expression.

world Updated: Aug 14, 2018 00:04 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
White supremacists rally,White supremacists,Washington
A man holds a banner as people gather at Freedom Plaza to protest the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in downtown Washington. (Reuters)

Manny Dortu, a 24-year-old African American from New Jersey, stood outside the White House on a rainy Sunday to see what white supremacists look like. He wanted “to see their faces”, who these people were and who can hate so much.

He will have to wait another day to find out.

The Unite the Right 2 march by white supremacists fizzled out in comparison to the preceding hype that had attracted attention around the country and beyond.

It was over by the time Dortu made it to the park minutes before it commenced the final stage of the rally.

Only about two dozens of white supremacists showed up at the White House with the chief organiser Jason Kessler, who had earlier told a reporter his intention was to assert his right to speech and expression.

Kessler and his supporters entered the city through a metro station, under the watchful and forbidding eyes of rival protesters, who were prepared to ham and heckle them. They proceeded through the city under police escort, a significantly smaller body than they had anticipated and advertised.

They were badly outnumbered by thousands of protesters who had waited there for them, some of them in masks and body armour, held back behind steel-gate cordons and a line of police officers, standing shoulder to shoulder. And they were badly out-shouted, their speeches drowned by a steady chant of slogans, catcalls and F-words and their variations.

They were led into special vehicles arranged by authorities shortly after, for a drive back to a metro station to take them out of the city and deposit in the adjoining Virginia state for the remaining part of the journey home. They were not wanted and the city wanted them out as soon as possible.

Demonstrators opposed to a far-right rally block a street as police try to dislodge them near the White House August 12, 2018 in Washington, DC, one year after the deadly violence at a similar protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. (AFP)

“We won,” said Larry Frank, an engineer from neighbouring state of Maryland, who said the last time he took part in protests was during the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

No one was killed or injured, and no had been arrested.

It was indeed a victory for a people determined to face down what turned out to be a handful of far-right supporters and for their city that was far better prepared than the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, a Virginia state college town overrun by white supremacists, jointly organised by Kessler and AltRight creator Richard Spencer, both alumni of the local university.

Heather Heyer, one of those opposing their rally, was killed by a self-proclaimed Nazi sympathizer, who had driven his car barreling through counter-protestors. Two police officers died when their helicopter, from which they were monitoring the rally, crashed on the way home.

The white nationalists’ purported celebration of the anniversary of the 2017 rally on Sunday never stood a chance in Washington DC, a city which has an African-American majority and generally liberal, voting Democratic mostly.

First Published: Aug 13, 2018 10:29 IST