WASHINGTON -- The nation’s capital is gearing up for a self-described white civil rights rally. The Unite the Right event comes on the anniversary of last year’s deadly Charlottesville demonstration.
- Unite the Right holding rallies in Virginia, Washington
- 2nd anniversary of deadly Charlottesville rally
- DC will try to keep protesters, counterprotesters separated
Events will begin Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., the site of last year's demonstration.
Then, hundreds of white nationalists and even more counter protesters will demonstrate near the White House Sunday.
The mayor of the District of Columbia has activated the city’s Emergency Operations Center to allow several local and federal law enforcement agencies to coordinate their resources.
“We the people of Washington, D.C. say unequivocally that we denounce hate, we announce that we denounce anti-Semitism, and we denounce the rhetoric that we expect to hear this Sunday,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The goal is to keep rally goers and counter protesters separate in order to avoid violent confrontations.
“There is no city better equipped to handle large-scale events, including First Amendment events, than Washington, D.C,” said Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham.
The organizer behind the main event, set to take place at Lafayette Park, is Jason Kessler. He was responsible for putting together the Charlottesville rally that led to the death of anti-racism activist Heather Heyer about a year ago.
Some city officials have strongly pushed back against the premise of the event but have allowed it to move forward due to concerns about free speech.
“This event on Sunday will be that which allows the First Amendment to occur because our beat, our daily responsibilities on the National Mall is our nation’s civic stage," said Unite States Park Police Chief Robert MacLean. "And our officers are those guardians of democracy with the focus that's making sure everybody is safe at the end of the day.”
Several white supremacists are expected to speak at the second annual Unite the Right rally, including David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Dozens of groups, including the local chapter of Black Lives Matter, will counterprotest in Freedom Plaza.
“I hope that the images and the noise that we are able to create with this will make people feel empowered,” said Makia Green, Black Lives Matter DC core organizer.
Unlike in Charlottesville, demonstrators will not be allowed to openly carry weapons.
The Spectrum News DC bureau will be covering the Unite the Right rally Sunday, as well as the counter-protests.