On August 12, 2018, one year after the white nationalist-organized “Unite the Right” protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, collapsed into chaos and violence that left one counterprotester dead and dozens injured, groups gathered near the White House for another “white civil rights rally.”
The effort largely ended in failure.
The white nationalist rally, which was expected to last two hours, finished before it was even scheduled to begin, as protesters trudged away due to a heavy rainstorm. And although event organizer Jason Kessler had expected as many as 400 people to attend, photos of the rally suggest that the crowd didn’t even amount to one-tenth of that size.
From the moment they arrived in DC, the alt-right attendees were greatly outnumbered by thousands of counterprotesters, who took to the streets in both Charlottesville and Washington, DC, this weekend to push back against emboldened white supremacy.
One of the largest counter-protests on Sunday came from the Shut it Down DC coalition, a group of nearly 40 organizations and community groups. The coalition held a “Still Here, Still Strong” rally in DC’s Freedom Plaza. A permitted event that included speeches and music, the rally aimed to amplify the voices of marginalized groups targeted by the alt-right one year ago in Charlottesville. Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter DC and other groups held additional counterprotests and marches throughout the city.
Counterprotesters said they were demonstrating against much more than a single rally. “This kind of violence follows you,” Constance, a survivor of the car attack that killed Heather Heyer during last year’s Charlottesville protests, told those gathered for the Shut It Down DC event. “In reality, it’s woven into the fabric of our history.”
As Vox’s Jane Coaston noted before the events on Sunday, Unite the Right 2 follows a flurry of setbacks for the alt-right and many of its most prominent members. “Attendance numbers, then, won’t tell us everything about how strong (or how fragmented) the alt-right has been since Charlottesville, but they will give us a snapshot of a part of the current movement.”
For those who gathered in Washington to protest the event, the second coming of Unite the Right offered a different opportunity: a chance to show the strength and resilience of marginalized communities. “DC is not a political playground for white supremacist attitudes and ideals,” Makia Green, an organizer with Black Lives Matter DC, told a crowd of counterprotesters on Sunday. “Real people live here.”