A couple dozen. That’s the prevailing estimate of the number of White supremacists who showed up in Washington D.C. for the Unite the Right 2 rally yesterday (August 12). Organized by Jason Kessler a year after he invited White supremacists to descend on his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, brutally beating Black counter-protesters like DeAndre Harris and killing White counter-protester Heather Heyer, the gathering reportedly fizzled before its scheduled start time.
A couple of hours before the march was supposed to start, around 20 to 25 White nationalists, led by rally organizer Jason Kessler, had arrived at Foggy Bottom. Instead of waiting around, and swarmed by media, police and a lot of counter-protesters, they had forged ahead on the march route hours earlier than scheduled. There, Kessler complained to reporters about the police in Charlottesville and counter-protesters, and then left.
Despite being surrounded by thousands of anti-racist and anti-fascist counter-protesters as he marched to the rally cite across from the White House, Kessler took to Twitter to proclaim his event a success:
Guys, I am in sensory overload and need to decompress. But I think #UTR2 was a solid success. It accomplished my primary 2 objectives of: 1. Upholding free speech 2. Protecting public safety This is a solid win for White Rights activists and the free speech of all Americans.— Jason Kessler (@TheMadDimension) August 13, 2018
Black Morning! A special thank you to everyone supported our vision and goals to #RiseUpFightBack and #DefendDC against white supremacy.A special thank you to our comrades @BYP_100 @OrganizingBlack @StopCopTerrorDC for holding it down with us. #BlackLivesMatter #NoNaziZone pic.twitter.com/sf3C8pgO1H— BlackLivesMatter DC (@DMVBlackLives) August 13, 2018
Honestly, @DMVBlackLives and @BYP_100 organized one of the most joyful and resilient counter protest against white supremacist and fascists. I Love Us more than they can ever hate us!!! #BlackLivesMatter— patrisse cullors (@OsopePatrisse) August 13, 2018
The @DMVBlackLives Contingent showed up downtown and SHUT IT DOWN! The Nazis were Clowned ?. We must protect one another and with a strong community WE WILL WIN! #RiseUpFightBack #DefendDC #A12 #Justice4Makiyah #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/DqwFnDMPzu— BlackLivesMatter DC (@DMVBlackLives) August 13, 2018
BYP100 (@BYP_100) August 12, 2018
There were few reports of violence—NPR reported a clash between anti-fa and the Secret Service—but a photo of an officer using pepper spray on counter-protesters surfaced:
Many took to social media to mock the event—and to remind the world that this low turnout is not indicative of racism’s hold on the nation.
This is the “Unite the Right”’rally crowd. All of them. pic.twitter.com/flgi9jqZQ2— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) August 12, 2018
tfw when your cross-burning gets rained out— Thicc Cavett. (@GeeDee215) August 12, 2018
There are more white supremacists inside the White House than at the Unite the Right rally.— Denizcan Grimes (@MrFilmkritik) August 12, 2018
Ultimately, keeping people from saying insane racist shit or marching about like bearded cracker automatons is necessary, but shouldn’t be mistaken for actually fixing the problem, no matter how good it might feel to think so. Lookin at you, fellow white people.— john r stanton (@dcbigjohn) August 13, 2018
“We have people coming to our city for the sole purpose of spewing hate. It didn’t make sense last year, and it doesn’t make sense now.… While we are opposed adamantly to what we are going to hear, we know what our responsibility is—to protect First Amendment events, to protect Washingtonians and to protect our city,” D.C. mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) told press ahead of the rally.
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said last week that it would not aid the city’s tentative plan to provide separate trains for the White nationalists.
“More than 80 percent of Local 689’s membership is people of color, the very people that the Ku Klux Klan and other white nationalist groups have killed, harassed and violated. The union has declared that it will not play a role in their special accommodation,” president Jackie Jeter said in a statement, as reported by The Washington Post. “Local 689 is proud to provide transit to everyone for the many events we have in D.C. including the March of Life, the Women’s March and Black Lives Matters,” Jeter continued. “We draw the line at giving special accommodation to hate groups and hate speech.”
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) board chairman Jack Evans subsequently told The Washington Post that WMATA would not go against the union’s wishes. “Metro will not be providing a special train or special car for anyone next Sunday,” he said.
The tweets below appear to show otherwise, as witnesses say that the general public were barred from the car that held the White supremacists.
Despite complaints by WMATA Union and statement to the contrary, only Jason, his supporters, police, and press are in the train on its way to DC. pic.twitter.com/3BDbm0ciam— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) August 12, 2018
There are dozens of transit police protecting the racist marchers but drivers on Metrobus never see police protection on their buses #wmata— ATU Local 689 (@ATULocal689) August 12, 2018
At Unite the Right 2, American racists were bundled into the nation’s capital on a segregated train car and escorted through a racists-only entrance into a park across from the White House. https://t.co/FrtQxOdc5a— HuffPost (@HuffPost) August 12, 2018
“Nazis are highly protected by police. I want to hold DC mayor accountable for the protection of these Nazis. No one protected me in Ferguson.” (Quite the opposite) — Justin, veteran Ferguson protester & Law Professor discusses privileges of #UniteTheRight2 #ShutItDownDC pic.twitter.com/kfqQYE77TT— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) August 12, 2018
Now, the union is calling for WMATA general manager and CEO Paul Weidefeld to be fired. The union has been advocating for Weidefeld’s removal since July, saying that he has “failed” the riding public and WMATA employers and has “trampled” their collective bargaining agreement.
(1/3) “Today, the public was lied to by WMATA General Manager Paul Weidefeld the same way he has been lying to this union for the last two years. #WMATA— ATU Local 689 (@ATULocal689) August 12, 2018
ATU Local 689 (@ATULocal689) August 12, 2018
(3/3) We are asking the public to join us in contacting @NoVaTransit, DC @MayorBowser and Maryland Governor @LarryHogan to order the #WMATA Board to fire the general manager immediately.” — Pres. Jackie Jeter— ATU Local 689 (@ATULocal689) August 12, 2018
WMATA disputed the allegations of special treatment, per the local NBC station:
“The Kessler group traveled from Vienna to Foggy Bottom on a regularly scheduled train, together with other passengers, media and law enforcement,” the Metro statement said in part. “They were escorted by police onto the rear of the train and police rode in that rail car and others to protect the safety of everyone onboard the train.”
Metro said the train stopped at every station to allow any customers to enter and exit, and the Vienna station remained open to the public “at all times.”