Police and counterprotesters significantly outnumbered a small group of so-called Unite the Right participants Sunday in Washington, D.C., at a rally on the one-year anniversary of the deadly clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one person dead.
About 30 rallygoers, representing a loose coalition of groups including white supremacists and neo-Nazis, arrived at a Metro station in Vienna, Virginia, on Sunday afternoon and took the train into the city, where they headed to Lafayette Square across the street from the White House.
A sea of counterprotesters met the group and stood along the edges of Lafayette Square during the roughly hourlong gathering. Dozens of police officers were in the area, some on horseback. The far-right group had a permit to protest in the park until 7:30 p.m. but left shortly after 5 p.m., around the time it began to rain. Some counterprotesters shot fireworks in the direction of police officers around the time that Unite the Right participants were escorted away. Some protesters also threw eggs at police officers.
Chants of “Go home Nazis” echoed through the park. Away from the square, members of the anti-fascism group Antifa burned what appeared to be a Confederate flag. Members of Black Lives Matter, the group that arose in protest of police shootings of unarmed black men, called on the Antifa members to uncover their faces.
Jason Kessler, who organized the Unite the Right event, told reporters he did not care about the low turnout. “People were rightly scared of coming out,” Kessler said. “We had to prove the point we could do this rally and people would be safe.”
At last year’s rally, participants, who were officially protesting the planned removal of a Confederate statue, had violent clashes with opposition groups. The tensions came to a head when a man allegedly rammed his car into a group of protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The man, James Fields of Ohio, pleaded not guilty to a federal hate crime in July.
A report after last year’s deadly protest found police were unprepared when white nationalists converged on the college town. It appeared police took a different approach Sunday afternoon, with hundreds of officers in locations throughout the city, some wearing riot gear including helmets. At a protest led by University of Virginia students in Charlottesville on Saturday night, police also wore riot gear.
President Donald Trump, who drew criticism for his equivocal reaction to last year’s protest, called for Americans to “come together” in a tweet on Saturday.
“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” Trump said. “We must come together as a nation.”
Scott Mahaskey, Mary Newman and Beatrice Peterson contributed to this report.