A group of white nationalists walked on the streets in Washington, surrounded by police officers. (AP: Craig Hudson)
A contingent of about 30 white nationalists have marched down a Washington street toward the White House surrounded by a protective bubble of police officers and vehicles.
- Counter-protesters heavily outnumber white nationalists
- Authorities promise a big police presence
- Donald Trump condemns “all types of racism”
Hundreds of counter-protesters walked alongside the group on the sidewalks, many of them shouting and taunting the nationalists as they made their way to a park in front of the White House.
More than 1,000 protesters gathered in Freedom Plaza near the White House to rally against a white nationalist demonstration scheduled for later in the day.
The demonstration and counter-demonstration come on the anniversary of last year’s deadly gathering of neo-Nazis, skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members, and others in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The gathering was being led by the principal organiser of last year’s Unite the Right event, Jason Kessler, who calls the demonstration a rally for white civil rights.
Authorities have promised an enormous police presence to keep both sides apart and avoid the street brawls that broke out last year in downtown Charlottesville.
Thousands of counter protestors gathered near the White House to protest the Unite the Right rally. (AP: Jacquelyn Martin)
Donald Trump tweet: The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!
A local woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when an Ohio man, James Fields, drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters.
At the time, President Donald Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides, spurring criticism from across the political divide that he was equating the counter-protesters with the rally attendees, who included neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.
On Saturday, Mr Trump condemned “all types of racism” in a Twitter post marking the anniversary.
Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Mr Trump, said on Sunday that the media was “just not covering” the president’s repeated denunciations of white nationalists.
“He’s calling for unity among all Americans and he denounced all forms of bigotry and acts of violence and racism,” Ms Conway said on American ABC’s This Week.
Democratic US Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said Mr Trump was not doing enough to disavow racists.
“I think it’s a low bar for the President of the United States to simply say he’s against racism,” Mr Cummings said on This Week.
“He’s got to do better than that. He’s got to address the people who are spouting racist-type comments and do racial, racist-type acts.”
White nationalist Jason Kessler calls the rally a demonstration for white civil rights. (AP: Alex Brandon)
‘All hands on deck’ to avert violence
In Washington, counter protesters planned a program of music, speeches and poetry readings at Freedom Plaza, east of the White House.
Several counter-protesters gathered near the Washington suburban metro station of Vienna, Virginia, where some white nationalists were expected to board trains to take them into the city.
Paul Wiedefeld, chief executive of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs the metro, told reporters at the station that a full-blown security operation was in effect to avert the kind of violence that erupted in Charlottesville last year.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Mr Wiedefeld said.
In the picturesque college town of Charlottesville, hundreds of police officers maintained a security perimeter around the normally bustling downtown district throughout the day on Saturday.
Police patrol Vienna Metro Station where some white nationalists were expected to board trains for Washington. (Reuters: Lucas Jackson)
Traffic was barred from an area of more than 15 city blocks, while pedestrians were allowed access at two checkpoints where officers examined bags for weapons.
Hundreds of students and activists took to the streets on Saturday evening.
Many of the protesters directed their anger at the heavy police presence, with chants like “cops and Klan go hand in hand”, a year after police were criticised for their failure to prevent the violence.