Counterprotesters Outnumber White Supremacists Near White House
LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:
The nation's capital is on high alert for a small demonstration by white supremacists and a much larger counterprotest. Today, about 25 white supremacists were surrounded by police and escorted through a section of Washington, D.C., to rally in Lafayette Park across from the White House. The event was dubbed Unite the Right 2 and marks the anniversary of last year's deadly protest in Charlottesville, Va. Organizer Jason Kessler addressed his followers.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JASON KESSLER: White people deserve to be able to stand up for their rights like other people are able to do. I think the tearing down of that Robert E. Lee statue was symbolic of a replacement that is going on in the United States where white people are being guilted for slavery and war and all these things...
SINGH: A much larger crowd of counterprotesters filled the north section of Lafayette Park and spilled out onto the closed street.
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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA. No Trump, no KKK, no...
SINGH: NPR's Jeff Brady is in Lafayette Square, and we have him on the line. Jeff, what's happening now? Is this anything like Charlottesville last year?
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: It really is not. The counterprotesters are still here. They're still protesting. The white supremacist voters have left. I know that a little while ago, Jason Kessler was speaking on the other side of the park because colleagues told me that, but I couldn't hear a thing he was saying because of the overwhelming dominance of the counterprotesters and the chanting. And there was no way I was going to hear what was happening on the other side of the park.
This was a very different feel from what we saw last year with the men marching in a long line with the tiki torches. This year, it was just a few dozen people, some carrying American flags without poles. And the police were surrounding them, so sometimes you really couldn't even see them. But on the counterprotest side of the park, just a lot of people all afternoon. This whole area was just filled with people. I talked with one of the counterprotesters, Dee Washington (ph), who lives here in the District, and asked her why she chose to be here today.
DEE WASHINGTON: I'm here to stand up and speak out against hate - to understand, you know, what's going on, why the KKK and neo-Nazis are coming to my city, to understand where it's going from this point forward.
BRADY: And I talked with Dee Washington a bit longer, and it's clear she's leaving this event still with a lot of questions about why this is happening. But she wanted to be here to make sure that her voice was heard, too.
SINGH: What did police do to avoid the kinds of clashes that we saw last year in Charlottesville?
BRADY: You know, the first thing they did is a lot of planning for the last several months. The D.C. Police Department, the National Park Service Police, the Secret Service - those are among the agencies involved. And you can imagine that they were pretty motivated to avoid the kind of scene we saw in Charlotte (ph) right here with the White House in the background. Law enforcement's main goal was to keep opposing sides separate, so - and it looks like they pretty much accomplished that today. There were fences to keep people in certain areas - the white supremacists on the south side, the counterprotesters on the north side...
SINGH: So they managed to...
BRADY: ...And a big swath of police in the middle.
SINGH: So they managed to actually achieve their goal. That's NPR's Jeff Brady at Lafayette Square in Washington. Thank you very much, Jeff.
BRADY: Thank you.
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