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Counterprotesters dwarf white nationalists at rally on Charlottesville anniversary

Washington, D.C., was bracing for a white nationalist rally on Sunday organized to coincide with the anniversary of last year’s racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va.

The “Unite the Right 2” event was scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. ET in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House.

Several counterprotests have also received permission to gather nearby. By 2:30 p.m. ET, more than 1,000 protesters were gathered in Freedom Plaza near the White House.

“We know from experience that ignoring white nationalism doesn’t work,” Makia Green, who represents the Washington branch of Black Lives Matter, told Sunday’s crowd.

The counterprotesters plan to march to Lafayette Square, just before the arrival of the white nationalists.

Police have erected a maze of barricades to keep the two sides apart to avoid the street brawls that broke out last year in downtown Charlottesville. A local woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when an Ohio man, James Fields, drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.

People are gathering at Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington, D.C., to protest the white supremacist Unite the Right rally being held across the street from the White House.(Leah Millis/Reuters)

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 counterprotesters with the rally attendees, who included neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.

On Saturday, Trump condemned “all types of racism” in a Twitter post marking the anniversary.

In Washington on Saturday evening, nearly two dozen police officers patrolled Lafayette Square. Members of the Washington chapter of Black Lives Matter were sprinkled through the park, seemingly standing on guard.

Susan Bro is embraced at the site where her daughter Heather Heyer was killed, on the one year anniversary of 2017 Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ protests, in Charlottesville on Sunday.(Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Organizers of #OccupyLafayettePark, a civil rights group that holds nightly protests in the square, held up posters reading “Love America, Hate Trump” and “Defend The District From White Supremacy” just a few steps away from the White House.

Outpouring in Charlottesville

In Charlottesville, Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, visited the site of the attack to mark the anniversary of her daughter’s death and laid flowers at a makeshift memorial. She embraced supporters and, at one point, asked the assembled crowd to raise their fists in solidarity.

Charlie Spearman, foreground, and Jae Em Cafico kneel on Saturday at a memorial dedicated to Heather Heyer, who was killed during last year’s rally in Charlottesville.(Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

Bro said there’s still “so much healing to do.” She said the city and the country have a “huge racial problem” and that if it’s not fixed, “we’ll be right back here in no time.”

Bro also said the day was about more than just her daughter. She recognized the other victims of the attack, which injured dozens of people, and thanked the two Virginia state troopers killed in a helicopter crash for their sacrifice.

Lt. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates died when their helicopter crashed while deployed as part of the response to last year’s violence.

On Sunday, more than 100 people marched after a rally held at a city park and made its way toward downtown. Some marchers linked arms as they walked.

The group directed chants against police who were accompanying the march, including “cops and Klan go hand in hand.”

Law enforcement officials faced blistering criticism in the wake of last year’s rally for what was perceived as a passive response to the violence that unfolded.

Demonstrators on Sunday chanted: “Will you protect us?”

On Saturday, hundreds of police officers maintained a security perimeter around the normally bustling downtown district. Vehicular 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.

A group of anti-fascist protesters also walked through the downtown area, holding signs with messages like “Good Night White Pride.”

But the day was largely free of confrontation, and rumours that white nationalists planned a return to Charlottesville on Saturday turned out to be unfounded. Authorities had arrested three people by early evening, all for minor offences.

Credits belong to : www.cbc.ca

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