Washington, Washington D.C. is bracing for a far-right rally and counter-protests, marking the first anniversary of a white nationalist rally that erupted in deadly violence a year ago.
Jason Kessler, who organised last year’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, received approval for the event in June. On Sunday, hundreds of far-right supporters will gather at Lafayette Park here to press their demand for “white civil rights”.
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said the city was activating its emergency operations centre and would be on high alert for violence during the rally, reports USA Today.
“We have people coming to our city for the sole purpose of spewing hate. We denounce hate, we denounce anti-Semitism and we denounce the rhetoric we expect to hear this Sunday,” Bowser said.
The city’s police chief Peter Newsham said guns will be banned from the rallies, even for gun owners with legal permits.
“The rules are pretty simple,” Newsham said. “Don’t hurt anyone and don’t break anything.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said it was preparing security options that place the “highest priority” on protecting passengers and Metro workers.
In last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, was struck and killed when James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist, slammed his car into a counter-protest, USA Today reported.
Two Virginia state troopers also died when their surveillance helicopter crashed near the protests.
Meanwhile, hundreds of counter-protesters, banding together as “Shut it Down D.C.”, are planning a “Still Here, Still Strong” rally on Sunday at Freedom Plaza, a few blocks from Lafayette Park.
Organisers are calling on all “anti-fascists and people of good conscience” to take the streets in solidarity.
The group plans to march to Lexington Park shortly before the far-right rally.