As white nationalists and counter-protesters including Black Lives Matter prepare to square off in D.C. for the one-year anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally, those on the outside are urging organizers and demonstrators to refrain from racist displays and violence.
President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter with a nod toward national unity.
“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” he wrote. “We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”
After counter-demonstrator Heather Heyer was killed last August at the Charlottesville, Virginia, rally, Trump earned widespread criticism for telling reporters that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the demonstration.
Unite the Right 2 has been planned for Lafayette Square in the nation’s capital and is expected to begin with a march at 5 p.m. on Sunday. The demonstration will continue with a platform of speakers geared toward a white audience.
Leaders in Charlottesville denied a request to hold a second rally in the same place.
Organizer Jason Kessler said the backup location of this weekend’s event was selected due to its proximity to the president.
“It’s right there in front of the White House,” he said. “So we can rally in D.C. and talk to President Trump.”
While Kessler is aware of the labels associated with his activism, he claims he is actually an advocate for civil rights, albeit those of the majority race.
“White people should be able to have the same rights as other groups,” he said.
Ahead of the gathering, which is expected to draw hundreds of demonstrators, D.C. authorities are preparing for possible disturbances.
In addition to banning firearms in the vicinity, police will keep the white nationalist demonstrators apart from counter-protesters and beef up security for the duration of the rally.
The counter-demonstration is set to begin hours earlier at Freedom Plaza. Those taking part in that event plan to march to Lafayette Square and position themselves on the north side of the venue, facing the gathering of white nationalists.
Estimates indicate the counter-protest could draw far more participants than the far-right rally.
Though the anniversary march was declined, several smaller events are planned throughout Charlottesville. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency through the weekend and offered his own plea for peace.
“Virginia continues to mourn the three Virginians who lost their lives in the course of the demonstrations a year ago,” he said. “We hope the anniversary of those events passes peacefully.”
He went on to recommend that those who plan to travel in the area “make alternative plans to engaging with planned demonstrations of hate.”
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