Tension was building Sunday afternoon in Washington, D.C., as a group of far-right demonstrators gathered for the so-called “Unite the Right II” march toward the White House and were met by dozens of law enforcement officers and hundreds of counterprotesters.
The white nationalist rally participants — a couple dozen in all, according to estimates — gathered at a subway station in northern Virginia and traveled into the nation’s capital via train before disembarking in Foggy Bottom near the George Washington University campus. Police officers cleared a path through the counterprotesters for the group to march through on their way to Lafayette Park outside the White House. The far-right rallygoers marched in the middle of the street, surrounded by a phalanx of police, while counter-protesters heckled them from the sidewalks on either side.
There were no immediate reports of arrests or injuries. A few confrontations between protesters and counterprotesters were defused by police.
“Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler said he expected 100 to 400 people to participate in the Lafayette Park event. However, their numbers appeared to be far fewer than that.
Some leading figures in the U.S. white nationalist movement have said they won’t attend or have encouraged supporters to stay away.
The National Park Service also issued permits for events organized by DC United Against Hate, New York Black Lives Matter and other groups. Government and police officials in Washington have expressed confidence the city can manage the events without violence; the mayor and police chief have promised a massive security mobilization to keep protesters and counter-protesters apart.
Sunday marks one year after the original “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, when hundreds of white nationalists — including neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members — descended on Charlottesville in part to protest the city’s decision to remove a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park.
Violent fighting broke out between attendees and counterprotesters in 2017. Authorities eventually forced the crowd to disperse, but a car later barreled into the crowd of peaceful counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens more. A state police helicopter later crashed, killing two troopers.
This weekend was much quieter in Charlottesville. On Sunday morning, a crowd of more than 200 people gathered in a park to protest racism and remember Heyer. The group sang songs, and speakers addressed the crowd.
On Saturday night, University of Virginia students and other activists briefly confronted police over the heavy security presence at a rally. They unfurled a banner reading, “Last year they came w/ torches. This year they come w/ badges” and chanted, “Why are you in riot gear? We don’t see no riot here.” More than 200 marched to another part of campus, where many shouted at a line of officers.
This is a developing story; check back for more updates.
Fox News’ Peter Doocy and Sarah Tobiankski and The Associated Press contributed to this report.