Lafayette Square was filled with protesters hours before the alt-right began marching towards the White House—counterprotesters, that is.
The counterprotesters consisted of a diverse group of people. Many were individuals who simply opposed racism who didn’t appear to be aligned with any specific group. Many were centrists or moderate liberals. One man who wore a NATO flag as a cape said, “I like to piss off both sides. I oppose fascism and communism.”
There was no shortage of hardcore activists and far-left ideologues, as well. Activist groups organized around communism, socialism, anarchism and “racial justice” all sent large contingencies.
At 12:20 pm, a group of black rights activists came marching down 16 Street NW carrying signs and chanting. Among the groups represented on their shirts and signs were Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) and the Party for Socialism & Liberation (pslweb.org). Black protesters marched in front, followed by white allies. The Revolutionary Communist Party, A.N.S.W.E.R. and Refuse Fascism.org had organized protesters into the park, too, by then.
The park was divided in half—counterprotesters were allowed to fill the northern half, alt-right racists in the southern half. The counterprotest site was a cacophony of chanting and speeches by anti-racists, including Daryle Lamont Jenkins of One People’s Project.
The alt-right arrives
But the real action was along the orange line of the Metro. Jason Kessler and his followers, who numbered in the low tens, took the orange line from its terminus stop, Vienna, to Foggy Bottom-GWU station, about 0.7 miles away from Lafayette Square. Kessler’s boys were protected by heavy police presence the whole way. The police had set up outside Foggy Bottom station with vans and an impenetrable line of motorcycles.
They needed that heavy police presence. Some of the counterprotesters were bloodthirsty. Confronting Pato Rincon, a counterprotester and Bombs + Dollars contributor who was dressed as Captain America and carrying an American flag and Korean flag (and thus mistaken for an alt-right activist), one counterprotester said, “You want to fight?” When he was informed that Rincon wanted to fight Nazis, the two hugged and shook hands.
The Korean flag had helped him convince another counterprotester earlier that he was down with multiculturalism and not racist.
At around 4:55 pm, a commotion could be heard near the entrance to the subway station. People started shouting, “Fuck you, Nazis!” The police started up their motorcycles. The vans turned their sirens on. The march was on.
Counterprotesters, who outnumbered the alt-right by a factor of many times, ran up and down along the sidewalks. They were allowed to march in front of the group of racists, but the police successfully kept them away and on the sidewalk whenever the alt-right members passed by. The counterprotesters outside the station seemed to be almost entirely individual participants, not activists with groups.
Along the protest route, there was less of the chanting often heard at the protest site from members of organized groups and more homemade cursing and insults. Marchers were mocked about how, for example, their status as unemployable losers with no girlfriend is their own damn fault.
“No one wants you,” someone said.
“We are replacing you!” said another.
One marcher, holding an American flag, shouted back “stop the hate!”, to which not a few counterprotesters noted that he himself was the bigot.
Kessler said that this year’s march would be without the explicitly racist symbols of last year’s. And, for the most part, he was right. There were no Nazi or Confederate flags to be seen among the twenty or so marching from Foggy Bottom station. Instead, there were a lot of Trump hats and quite a few marchers using American flags to cover their faces.
They must have taken to heart what Nazi and critic of Unite the Right 2 Andrew Anglin said: that anyone who participates in this march risks having their identity publicized and facing social ostracization.
Back at Lafayette Square
When the alt-right arrived at Lafayette Square on their side, it was a sad affair. The northern half of the park was completely full of counterprotesters. Along the fence, counterprotesters asked, “Where are they?”
“That’s it? That’s all they got?” one counterprotester said.
“They got the fucking White House.”
It would have been hard enough to see them if they were numbers, because the furthest fence on the north side was tens of yards away from the furthest fence on the south side. But being that they were no more than fifty (and estimated at twenty by many media outlets), it was almost as if the counterprotesters were shouting to themselves.
“Shame! Shame! Shame!” came the first chant after the alt-right arrived.
Other classic left-activist chants resounded elsewhere in the park: “Hey, hey, ho, ho. Neo-Nazis got to go!”
“Nazis go home! Nazis go home!”
Antifa roams the streets
On the streets, Antifa warred with journalists and moderate liberals. After gathering in a group on a street corner and waving their flag, the black clad rabble rousers were unsurprisingly being photographed by some casual observers and journalists.
“You’re saying that your job is to endanger them. The effect of doing your job is to endanger them,” an Antifa member said to a photojournalist.
The journalist tried to explain that Lafayette Park (and the roads, for that matter) is a public place and that he took photos of the alt-right, too.
When asked the hypothetical about whether one should refrain from taking photos of the alt-right, the Antifa member responded, “Fuck that! I don’t care about them.”
Later, when Antifa, whose members’ faces were almost all covered entirely with masks or bandanas and thus unrecognizable, was marching down the street, one member threw water at a reporter’s camera (not mine, for the record).
Antifa roamed the streets with no Proud Boys to fight and no flash-bang grenades to dodge. They heroically took on the menace of journalists doing their job, sharing the same enemy as Trump.
The alt-right’s event was scheduled to officially start at 5 pm. It started to rain at 4:30. They were already in the park. The opponents of their authoritarian movement had conclusively shown themselves to be more numerous, better organized and less ashamed of their values.
By the time Charles Edward Lincoln, a disbarred ex-lawyer and ex-convict, took the stage to follow Kessler’s opening speech, the event was long past over.