A rally that called for white nationalists to make their presence known Sunday instead reflected just how far in the minority their views lie.
The roughly two dozen white nationalists and neo-Nazis who came to the nation’s capital were greeted without ceremony when they exited the Foggy Bottom metro station as over one hundred counter-demonstrators erupted in chants of “Nazi scum,” and other, sometimes explicit, rhetoric.
Dozens of police officers, some on motorcycles and bicycles, escorted the Unite the Right 2 demonstrators on the three-quarter mile (1.2 kilometres) walk from Foggy Bottom to the White House where they rallied under tight guard.
Officers were working to ensure the clashes that erupted one year ago in Charlottesville, Virginia and which brought that city to international infamy were not repeated in Washington, D.C.
One counter-protester was killed in the city in 2017 when a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of people protesting against the gathering of Ku Klux Klan members, alt-righters and neo-Nazis. Several people were injured that day in violent clashes between the groups.
Sunday’s demonstration and counter-demonstration were planned to coincide with that anniversary.
Over one thousand counter-demonstrators amassed in Lafayette Park, which sits across from the executive mansion, and one block to the west on 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, as the group of over 20 white nationalists gathered near the White House, cordoned off by multiple layers of police security.
Unite the Right 2 rally organizer Jason Kessler told the handful of people who joined him Sunday that “a lot of white people feel aggrieved because they feel like the country they’re waking up in 2018 is a very, very different country than the other they woke up in 1960, 1970, 1980.”
His rally skidded to a halt when the rain came pouring down Sunday evening, but the large crowd in Lafayette Park had no shortage of criticism for Kessler and his ilk during the roughly two hours they spent in front of the White House.
“I can’t stand by and let Nazis march in my city,” said Gentry Lane, a 49-year-old D.C. resident who said her maternal and paternal grandparents fled the Nazis in Europe during the Second World War.
“My grandparents ran from them, grandparents on both sides, so I’ll be the first one in my family to stand up to them,” she said.
For Lane, the small turn-out across the separation barriers was a point of delight.
“I’m happy,” she said. “They’re not wanted in this society. They’re not wanted here.”
Lena Giri, a 27-year-old D.C. resident, also rejoiced in the poor Unite the Right 2 show, saying “it’s a little embarrassing for the other side.”
“I don’t even know why they chose to do this. They should have just stayed home,” she said.
Kessler and his group left the White House in white vans with a police escort.
Some protesters, mostly with the Antifa group that regularly clads themselves in head-to-toe black clothing, took issue with the level of security police provided to the white nationalists. But apart from minor confrontations, Sunday’s demonstrations were mostly peaceful though sometimes tense.
President Donald Trump was not at the White House for the demonstrations, instead of staying at his New Jersey golf club.