Washington, D.C., Officials Prepare For White Nationalist Rally

Aug 10, 2018
Originally published on August 14, 2018 1:25 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Here in Washington, officials say they're ready for this weekend's white nationalist rally and planned counter-protests. As Elly Yu of member station WAMU reports, D.C. officials want to avoid the clashes that led to violence during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last year.

ELLY YU, BYLINE: White nationalists plan to march on Sunday in what's called the Unite the Right 2 Rally. Hundreds of counter-protesters are also expected. But D.C. police Chief Peter Newsham says the city's experienced with protests and prepared.

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CHIEF PETER NEWSHAM: There is no city better equipped to handle large-scale events, including First Amendment events, than Washington, D.C.

YU: Newsham says officers' number-one goal on Sunday is to keep rally-goers and counter-protesters separated. Both groups have permits to demonstrate at Lafayette Square, right across from the White House.

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NEWSHAM: We have seen in the past when these two groups have been in the same area at the same time, it leads to violent confrontations.

YU: Unlike in Charlottesville, D.C. officials say it will be illegal to carry guns, even with a permit, at or around the demonstrations. U.S. Park Police Chief Robert MacLean says some ordinary items could also be banned.

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CHIEF ROBERT MACLEAN: Anything can be used as a weapon, so our officers are adept and trained and prepared to identify an umbrella, a metal pipe, anything that you could think of.

YU: Unite the Right's main organizer estimates that up to 400 people will attend the rally. But some white nationalist groups have said they're not going. Meanwhile, more than 1,500 counter-protesters are expected. And D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says, while the nation's capital welcomes millions of visitors each year, it denounces the views of white supremacists.

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MURIEL BOWSER: The only right message and the message that I hope that we will carry jointly as Washingtonians is love, inclusion and diversity.

YU: The city is also holding a series of events this weekend with faith-based groups focusing on love, not hate. For NPR News, I'm Elly Yu in Washington, D.C.

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