'Unite the Right' ralliers leave, counterprotesters stay at park

FULL INTERVIEW: Organizer of 'Unite the Right' rally says he's not a 'white nationalist'
More than 1,000 people gathered for rallies in Washington DC. (Source: NBC12)
More than 1,000 people gathered for rallies in Washington DC. (Source: NBC12)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWBT) - The "Unite the Right" rally ended earlier than scheduled after the white supremacists left Lafayette Square outside the White House, but counterprotesters remained.

The onset of rain likely contributed to the expedited protest, which wasn't supposed to begin with speeches until 5:30 p.m. The white nationalists arrived shortly after 3 p.m. and cleared out by about 5 p.m., to massive cheers from counterprotesters.

The counterprotesters were ultimately told to disperse. A large crowd remained in the area, and then slowly started to make thin out, an hour after Unite the Right left.

The demonstration was held on the first anniversary of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that turned violent and led to the death of a counterprotester. Jason Kessler, the primary organizer of last summer's "Unite the Right" rally, obtained a permit for a "white civil rights" rally in DC. Counterprotesters secured a permit, as well.

"Unite the Right" ralliers were met by more than 1,000 counterprotesters on the other side of Lafayette Square and along their journey to the park. Police erected a maze of barricades to keep the two sides apart.

The Unite the Right group was escorted from a northern Virginia train station by dozens of police. At one point, the station was shut down to accommodate the white supremacists.

Virginia State Police say they arrested Donald Franklin Georgette, 30, of Washington, D.C., at the Vienna Metro South entrance after he spit on two troopers. Georgette was charged with simple assault and taken to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

Less than two dozen "Unite the Right" ralliers showed for the protest at Lafayette Park, compared to the 400 they anticipated. Kessler blamed police not waiting for the rest of his crew to show up at a train station, to be escorted. Kessler also said that some Unite the Right protesters were scared to demonstrate, because of the violence that sparked last year.

Kessler began his remarks by giving condolences to the families of the victims of the Charlottesville rally. He also outlined what he felt were injustices towards his group in Charlottesville, and said that he is not a "white nationalist."

Counterprotesters marched through the streets of D.C. from Freedom Plaza before they arrived at Lafayette Square, meeting other anti-hate protesters already at the park.

Makia Green, who represents the Washington branch of Black Lives Matter, told Sunday's crowd that: "We know from experience that ignoring white nationalism doesn't work."

Counterprotesters expected to dwarf white supremacists in DC

Authorities are ramping up security to keep "both sides" apart and barricades are going up.

Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed for most of the day Sunday.

President Donald Trump will not be in town.

Security could be seen on top of the White House as protesters arrived in Lafayette Park.

MONUMENT DEBATE

After last year's protests, debates erupted on whether or not Confederate monuments should be removed.

In Charlottesville, a Robert E. Lee statue was covered by a tarp and then removed numerous times. A Richmond man was arrested in several of those incidents.

In Richmond, just prior to the Charlottesville rally, Mayor Levar Stoney had created a Monument Avenue Commission to discuss the feature of Confederate statues in the city.

After the rally and then in the months that followed, the commission met several times.

This summer, that group released a report that said "change is needed and desired."

The report recommends signage reflecting "historic, biographical, artistic and changing meaning over time" for all of the monuments, creating an additional exhibit for the history of the monuments themselves that is "historically accurate," adding a monument to the "the resilience of the formerly enslaved" and removing the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, pending "current litigation or changes in state law."

The Associated Press contributed to this post. 

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