Washington Prepares For White Supremacist Rally
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
And that brings us to today. This afternoon, the group behind that Charlottesville rally is expected to hold a demonstration here in Washington. NPR's Brian Mann joins us from Lafayette Square. Brian, good morning.
BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What are you seeing this afternoon?
MANN: Well, there's a couple hundred people here where I'm at in Lafayette Square. They started turning up early today, briefly moved out of the park by police while teams swept the area with bomb-sniffing dogs. Security here is really tight. Authorities have basically created two areas, one for the white nationalists who first scheduled this event and then another area separate for what is expected to be a larger group of counterdemonstrators.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Brian, do we know what those Unite the Right 2 protesters are planning?
MANN: Well, we know that the organizer, Jason Kessler, says he's going to bring up to 400 people. They're scheduled to arrive on public transit a little bit later today. But we really don't know, Lulu, exactly what's going to happen. We're going to be here watching and waiting to see. But that's what he said - up to 400 people here to bring a similar message to what we heard last year.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We know that Kessler has a permit from the National Park Service for his rally outside the White House. But there are also these counterprotesters that you are already seeing. So you've mentioned a few of who they are, but what are they saying about what they want to do there?
MANN: Well, what they're saying is that they want to take over the narrative and really eclipse the people who have embraced racist and bigoted views. They say they also want to honor Heather Heyer, the counterdemonstrator you mentioned who died last year in Charlottesville. Kay Pritzker (ph) from Washington, D.C., is here with a group called the ANSWER Coalition.
KAY PRITZKER: These white supremacists, neo-Confederates are showing up to celebrate their murder of Heather Heyer. And we don't want this to go unanswered. There have been a lot of people saying, you know, oh, well, if you protest them, you'll make the Nazis - you'll give them the attention they want, things like that. But we don't want them to walk in here and just have D.C. completely tolerate that. We want to reject this hatred and this violence.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Which brings us I guess to the police, you know? In the Charlottesville event last year, there was a lot of criticism of them, that they weren't prepared for those clashes. You say that there's a lot of security there now. But how are they preparing for today?
MANN: Well, they have been doing a lot of planning. The District of Columbia Police, National Park Service and other law enforcement have all been organizing on the scene here. And the district just has stricter laws. There's weapons restrictions here today, no guns allowed. And police in D.C. just have more experience in handling large crowds - so a lot more locked down than we saw a year ago.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, Brian Mann at Lafayette Square near the White House, thank you very much.
MANN: Thank you.
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