Washington is bracing for a white nationalist rally that law enforcement agencies will try to prevent from descending into a melee like the one in Charlottesville, Virginia, that cast a shadow over Donald Trump's presidency a year ago. He's treating the rally like a weather emergency, and letting workers stay home if they wish.
In a report from USA Today, Virginia State Police Superintendent Gary Settle said more than 700 state police will be activated during the weekend and "state police is fully prepared to act" to prevent any incidents like a year ago.
The far-right organizer of last year's event, Jason Kessler, dropped a court challenge last month in his attempt to obtain a permit to hold a "Unite the Right 2" rally in Charlottesville on August 12. A network of street closures are planned in D.C.in anticipation of the white nationalists marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. He authorized $2 million in state funds for security support and authorized the Virginia National Guard to assist the local authorities. Since that meeting, Kessler altogether.
"Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans", he said. But Newsham, the District's police chief, remained elusive when discussing ingress and egress plans Thursday, insinuating that the means and route Kessler's group ultimately takes could and probably would change at the last minute. "So, I think it's really important to show that".
Charlottesville's intense security plan for the anniversary weekend has been greeted with mixed reactions from residents. "Every police action that you will see on Sunday will be done with the ultimate goal of ensuring the safety of everyone that attends", he said.
"I sat in a closed session briefing - probably two months ago - about Charlottesville, with the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation amongst others, and asked if Russian intermeddling had do with fomenting the flames of what happened in Charlottesville", he said.
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"To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend's racist violence, you will be held fully accountable".
Downtown business owners and speakers at Monday's City Council meeting have expressed dissatisfaction regarding the City's preparations for the anniversary weekend. Numerous street closures and parking restrictions will also take effect. Masks are also prohibited.
The events mark the anniversary of the violent 2017 rally that led to the deaths of three people including two law enforcement officers.
Newsham said the permit allowed for 400 demonstrators, and that overflow zones will be available should more protesters arrive.
"The group is by and large a lot younger than me and very diverse in many ways, not just demographics but also political orientations and approach to protest", Lance said.
Due to Virginia state law, the City is unable to prohibit the possession of firearms within the perimeter despite a failed attempt by City Councilors and other officials to add Charlottesville to a list of localities in Virginia which have the legal authority to do so.