By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Alexandria organizations plan to stand in opposition as the same alt-right group that organized the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 prepares for a second rally in Washington, D.C. this weekend.
The Unite the Right 2 rally, organized by white nationalist leader Jason Kessler, is scheduled to take place at Lafayette Square in front of the White House on Sunday. The rally marks the one-year anniversary of the first Unite the Right rally that took place in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, and resulted in injuries and one death.
The application for a permit to the National Park Service, dated May 8, 2018, declares the purpose of the event: “protesting civil rights abuse in Charlottesville, Va. / white civil rights rally.”
In response to the rally, Grassroots Alexandria will both host and participate in events this week to stand in opposition, according to a news release.
The main event the organization is encouraging protesters to attend is the Still Here, Still Strong counter rally, organized by the Shut It Down D.C. Coalition, at Freedom Plaza on Sunday. Freedom Plaza is about a half-mile walk from Lafayette Square.
“We’re hoping that the distance will give us a chance to accomplish what we want to accomplish, which is to be louder and have a stronger message than the fascists,” Grassroots Alexandria President Jonathan Krall said. “And the message that we have is that we are a community that cares about democracy, and we want to support our community, support our democracy and include everybody in that.”
In addition to encouraging protesters to attend the counter-rally in D.C., Grassroots Alexandria will host events in the city leading up to Sunday. On Thursday, there will be a sign making party at a private residence in Del Ray, and on Saturday, protesters will gather for a silent vigil outside the Old Town home of Alexandria-based white nationalist Richard Spencer.
“We expect that some of the people coming in from out of town might gather at Richard Spencer’s, so we wanted to let them know that they are not welcome,” Krall said.
Krall said Grassroots Alexandria has been regularly hosting silent protests outside Spencer’s apartment and office on King Street twice a month since January 2017.
After the violence at the alt-right rally in Charlottesville, authorities throughout the D.C. area have been preparing to keep this weekend’s rallies under control. Among the precautions, Metro has considered providing separate trains for the white nationalists attending the rally, according to media reports, though a news release from WMATA denied this allegation. There will also be a large police presence, according to media sources, with D.C. Metro Police taking the lead.
Krall said he was not overly concerned about safety during any of the events. That being said, Grassroots Alexandria will prepare for potential chaos by sharing strategies about self-protection at the sign making party.
“I support the people who are willing to get out and physically be present and out-shout the fascists when the fascists gather in public,” Krall said. “… I think we need to offer a sense of community to counterbalance the idea that fascism now offers people something to belong to. And I think that the way to defend democracy is to participate.”