Thousands of anti-fascist protesters will confront the white nationalists and neo-Nazis planning an August rally in Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, protest organizers told the Forward.
Jason Kessler, who planned last year’s Charlottesville rally, has been given initial approval to hold an Aug. 12 “Unite the Right 2” rally at Lafayette Square across from the White House. A white nationalist at the rally has been charged with murder for fatally mowing down counter-protester Heather Heyer with a car at last year’s march.
“That’s heavy to realize you were the target of a terrorist attack. It raised trauma for a lot of people,” a 37-year-old DC-based anti-fascist organizer who was near the Charlottesville attack told the Forward. “I think [the planned rally] renewed a lot of that trauma.”
The organizer said there would be a mix of antifa-aligned groups including Smash Racism DC and members of other progressive organizations.
The anti-fascist organizer said there would be a number of different actions planned, but the main focus would be on defending other counter-demonstrators, particularly if they see any white nationalists targeting specific individuals.
“The rallies will be very open and we’ll aim to be family friendly; with that being said, there will be neo-Nazis marching through town celebrating another date where they killed someone, so there is a strong need to keep watch and be available for security to keep people safe,” the organizer said.
He added that they were “hoping for minimal violence” and will be there to make sure “people don’t get hurt” or arrested.
Jill Raney, a D.C.-based member of the anti-Israeli occupation group IfNotNow, said they would organize a community gathering some time over that weekend “to create some kind of space for healing and personal growth and resilience.”
Raney, who attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said that IfNotNow wants to make some “something positive related to this weekend of literal Nazis having a party in our city.” Though the organization focuses on Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, Raney said they viewed organizing around the rally as part of their mission to support both Jewish and Palestinian dignity.
The National Parks Service approved plans for a 400-person rally in DC after Kessler submitted an application for “protesting civil rights abuse in Charlottesville, Va / white civil rights.”
Kessler had tried to hold the rally back in Charlottesville, but the city denied him a permit. Kessler filed suit and said he still plans to hold another demonstration there.
Kessler also said he was concerned about counter-protests.
“Members of Antifa affiliated groups will try to disrupt,” he wrote in the DC application.
The National Parks Service did not return an immediate request for comment if a final permit had been granted to Kessler. Kessler also did not return an immediate request for comment.