WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the one-year anniversary of a white supremacist-supported rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, an attempt was made to host a similar parade in Washington, D.C. However, large amounts of counterprotests and a small crowd of attendees to the Unite the Right rally caused it to end early on Aug. 12. Days after […]
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the one-year anniversary of a white supremacist-supported rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, an attempt was made to host a similar parade in Washington, D.C.
However, large amounts of counterprotests and a small crowd of attendees to the Unite the Right rally caused it to end early on Aug. 12.
Days after the attempted gathering, it is still making headlines as public criticism has been launched at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, known as Metro, for providing white nationalists special accommodations to travel into the city.
On Aug. 3, members of the ATU Local 689 metro workers union told media outlets that Metro was planning to use three private rail cars to place “a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated hate group.” Metro addressed the leaked information three days later, stating no special accommodations were being made for any attendees for the rally.
“To be absolutely clear, Metro is not preparing a “special train” for the private use of any group,” Metro said in a press release on Aug. 6. “As with any ridership-generating event (i.e. large sporting events, concerts, Fourth of July celebrations, and many First Amendment demonstrations), Metro will be prepared to add trains as needed to address crowding if necessary.”
However, photos and reports surfaced of rally attendees, including organizer Jason Kessler, receiving a police escort into one metro rail car with law enforcement and media members to Foggy Bottom, where the event was set to begin.
Metro Transit Police Deputy Chief Warren Donald confirmed the use of a private car on one of the Vienna trains in a Sunday news conference for safety reasons.
Metro said in previous public statements its Transit Police were going to work together with DC Metropolitan Police, Virginia State Police, Fairfax County Police, the U.S. Secret Service and others to ensure the safety of riders. Metro Board Chairman and D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans confirmed to the media that separate trains were part of a possible security measure were being considered.
The reaction to the decision was largely negative with ATU Local 689 Union President Jackie Jeter calling for the removal of Metro leadership.
“Today, the public was lied to by WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld the same way he has been lying to this union for the last two years,” Jeter said via Twitter. “The special accommodation for a hate rally in Washington D.C. was dishonest, unprecedented and not a reflection of the principles of ATU Local 689 or #DCValues.”
Metro and its Transit Police declined to comment at this time. Prince George County Police officials said that there were not asked to assist with any part of the rally.
Prior to the rally, local politicians denounced the message sent by organizers. Governor Larry Hogan hailed the state’s diversity as a positive and called “the racism and bigotry they spew are not welcome in our state – today, this weekend or ever.”
During last year’s rally in Charlottesville, one person died after a self-identified white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of people.
“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” President Donald Trump said on his Twitter. “We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”
Counterprotests surrounded Foggy Bottom all the way down to the National Mall. One of which was the United to Love Rally, organized by an group partnership of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church to have a religious alternative to “share God’s love, peace and justice.”
The Anti-Defamation League joined together with several known civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, released a joint statement on Aug. 10, denouncing the rally and its message.
“There is no place for hate and violence in our democracy,” the statement said. “Our organizations oppose white supremacy and we denounce hate in all of its forms. We call on all politicians and elected officials to speak out against hate groups and individuals that incite violence.”
While moments were tense between counterprotesters and rally participants, city police reported less than 300 people attended the Unite the Right event and only one arrest was made.