Police escort far-right demonstrators during a rally at Lafayette Park opposite the White House (Nicholas Kamm)
Washington (AFP) – A small white supremacist rally took place outside the White House on Sunday when only some 20 far-right supporters showed up, but they were massively outnumbered by counter-protesters.
Washington police closed streets and threw a ring of steel across a park where the rally was held to keep the demonstrators and counter-protesters apart.
The day appeared to end without major incident, though officers used pepper spray on rowdy anti-fascists a few blocks from the White House.
The tiny group of demonstrators trickled in from nearby Vienna, Virginia under heavy police escort at Washington’s Foggy Bottom Metro station — and were met by hundreds of counter-protesters screaming “Shame!” and “Get out of my city!”
Most of the demonstrators wore masks, prompting counter-protesters to taunt them as cowards for hiding their identity.
Heavy rain helped bring the so-called “Unite the Right 2” demo to an early end, hours before the scheduled finish of what had been billed as a “white civil rights rally” protesting, among other things, the social media shut down of some voices on the extreme right.
After marching to Lafayette Square in front of the White House, the group was driven in police vans back to a different Metro station outside of Washington.
“Behold the master race,” one counter-protester mockingly yelled.
By the end of the day, only six individuals remained, protected from angry counter-protesters by a ring of police officers.
“The US is for all of us, NOT just some of us,” one counter-protester sign read, while another said, “Fighting Nazis: An American Tradition.”
One year ago torch-bearing white supremacists in the first “United the Right” event marched through Charlottesville, Virginia in two days of chaos, chanting slogans such as “Blood and Soil” – the English version of a Nazi chant – and “White Lives Matter.”
That event culminated with a man driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 people.
Some of the white demonstrators in Charlottesville carried guns, including assault rifles, but all firearms were barred from Sunday’s rally.
On Sunday the demonstrator chants, if any, were drowned out by the counter-protesters.
“Pro-white” march organizer Jason Kessler, who wore a grey suit and no mask, told reporters that he was not a white supremacist but a “civil rights advocate for white people” and wanted to “tell the truth about Charlottesville,” which he claimed was “sabotaged” by city officials.
In a video posted on the Politico website, Kessler said that many sympathizers failed to show up because they were “terrified that they are going to be attacked” by counter-demonstrators.
– ‘Like Nazi Germany’ –
“It would be a major mistake if we allowed fascists to just walk into the nation’s capital and go in unopposed,” said Kei Pritsker, 22, a volunteer with the Answer Coalition that organized the counter-protest.
The white supremacist movement is enjoying a sense of empowerment under President Donald Trump, Pritsker said.
Trump drew broad criticism immediately after last year’s Charlottesville clashes when he appeared reluctant to condemn the extreme right-wingers — many of whom have rallied behind him since his election.
On Saturday, the president issued a generic condemnation of “all types of racism and acts of violence” via Twitter.
An African-American counter protester who only gave his name as Jim said that Trump has “emboldened” white racists.
“It was subtle, now it’s not subtle, it’s in your face. It’s like Nazi Germany,” he told AFP.
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