The nation’s capitol is bracing for a “white civil rights rally” today at 2 p.m. Eastern and police are preparing for crowds of violent counter protesters including the quasi-terrorist group Antifa.
As rallies in Washington D.C. go, the white nationalist rally is expected to be small with more media attending the event than actual participants. Jason Kessler, who had earlier said he would hold a similar anniversary event in Charlottesville, said in his permit application that he expects 100 to 400 people to participate in his event Sunday afternoon in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House.
Washington D.C. police and Secret Service are prepared for violence again as, like in Charlottesville, anarchist Antifa protesters are also planning to join the counter protests. The expectation of violence between white nationalists and counter protesters is so high that even some figures in the U.S. white nationalist movement have said they won’t attend or have encouraged supporters to stay away.
The National Park Service also issued permits for events organized by DC United Against Hate, New York Black Lives Matter, and other groups. Government and police officials in Washington have expressed confidence the city can manage the events without violence; the mayor and police chief have promised a massive security mobilization to keep protesters and counter-protesters apart.
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On Saturday evening on the University of Virginia campus, police had a brief and tense confrontation, not with white supremacists, but with students and leftist activists angry over a heavy security presence meant to protect them.
The students and university professors directed their anger at the uniformed police officers and unfurled a banner reading “Last year they came w/ torches. This year they come w/ badge” and chanted “Why are you in riot gear? We don’t see no riot here.”
More than 200 marched to another part of campus, where many berated a line of officers.
Last year, 22-year-old Clara Carlson faced down the group of white supremacists who marched through campus. On Saturday night, she was angry at the police response to this year’s rally.
“The university administration just let white supremacists roll through grounds with their torches, and for us, they’re afraid of us. They are afraid of us because we are demanding change from the university,” Carlson said.
She is referring to the events last year, when on Aug. 12, hundreds of white nationalists — including neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members — took over a peaceful protest by those angry about the city’s decision decided to remove a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park.
The white supremacists, knowing there would be free national exposure of their groups, descended on the town of 50,000.
Violent fighting broke out between them and counter protesters made up of the anarchist group Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and peaceful protesters.
Antifa, short for anti-fascist, is particularly known as being a violent group and regularly brings weapons and bombs to their protests all while they protect their identities with ski-masks and hoods. Their name though is meant to deceive. Their tactics are actually taken from the playbook of traditional fascists who use intimidation and violence to stifle free speech. The group targets Republican, conservatives, Christian campus groups, pro-Trump rallies and conservative speakers invited to speak on college campuses. Violence against conservatives has become so great that law enforcement agencies are calling for the Justice Department to label the loose affiliation a domestic terrorist group.
It all came to a head in Charlottesville where authorities eventually forced the white supremacist crowd to disperse, but a car later barreled into counter protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. A state police helicopter also later crashed, killing two troopers.
Right after the events of Charlottesville, President Trump expressed his sadness at the violence and loss of life. He was criticized when made comments criticizing the white supremacists but also acknowledging that there was violence on both sides of the protests.
But for Heather Hoyer’s mom no amount of denunciation will bring her daughter back.
Susan Bro, told The Associated Press that she has been dreading the anniversary of her daughter’s death for months. On Sunday morning, she plans to bring flowers to the spot where her daughter was killed.