By Brelaun Douglas, Special to the AFRO
August 12 marked the one-year anniversary of last year’s violent, White supremacist “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left three dead and further elevated racial tensions in the country. Despite last year’s tragedy, Jason Kessler, who organized the first Unite the Right, decided to host another on the exact same day. But while Kessler was hoping for a strong turnout of around 400 to protest with him across from the White House, he and a handful of supporters that showed up were vastly outnumbered by thousands of counter protesters.
After being denied a re-run of the first rally in Charlottesville, Kessler turned his attention to Washington D.C., and obtained a demonstration permit from the National Park Service.
Danielle Houston was one of many counter protesters at the Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Brelaun Douglas for the AFRO)
But counter protesters showed up by the thousands with chants of “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!”, “Black lives matter!” and “Go home, Nazis!”
At Freedom Plaza, under the summer sun, packed against each other despite the humidity and threat of rain, hundreds gathered with one common message: White supremacy is not welcome in Washington D.C.
Shut It Down DC and Black Lives Matter DC, held the Still Here, Still Strong Rally where people performed, gave speeches, spread messages of unity against White supremacy and held a moment of silence for victims and survivors of the violence from last year’s rally.
“It’s important to come together and organize,” said Michelle Stycznski of the Democratic Socialist of America and Shut It Down DC. “The best resistance to organized hate is organized love and resistance.”
At around 3p.m., the crowd of hundreds began marching to Lafayette Square, lining the streets of D.C. with colorful signs of anti-Nazism, anti-KKK and overall anti-hate. Once they reached the square, they joined other counter protesters, ultimately dwarfing the group of less than 40 “Unite the Right 2” protesters, who were kept separate from them by barricades and a massive police presence.
Across the park, Kessler and his supporters, who were escorted from Foggy Bottom Metro Station by police, gathered around a small stage, giving speeches that were drowned out by booing and screams of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” from counter protesters.
“Not while I’m here will I allow White supremacist hate groups to come and march and basically be unchallenged,” said Rev. Graylan Hagler, who gave speeches at both Freedom Plaza and Lafayette Square. “Cleary we’re bothered enough to come out here. Hatred cannot stand the light of day.”
While “Unite the Right 2” was scheduled to last from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., participants began departing shortly before 5, amidst sounds of thunder and rain. They were quickly whisked away by police into white vans to head back to Vienna, Virginia.
Kessler blamed the lack of turnout for his side on sudden rule changes.
“It wasn’t perfect,” he said. “I think a lot of my people got left behind at the train station. We thought we were going to be able to bring our flags and then they changed the rules about poles at the last minute, but I’m not going to complain about minor things.”
Kessler also stated that he was not a part of Alt-Right and felt that it was broken. He said that he did not condone the KKK, called for an end of both sides attacking each other, condemned Antifa because they “hate White people,” and said that he was there for White civil rights but failed to explain what those civil rights were.
Ultimately, many considered the poorly attended event a win against the Alt-Right.
“I’m the Alt-Right’s worse nightmare,” said Danielle Houston, a D.C. resident. “I am Black girl magic personified. I am educated. I am liberated. I am free. And they can stay mad.”