D.C. police chief pledges to keep protesters separated during slated ‘white civil rights’ rally
Authorities preparing for a “white civil rights” rally slated to be held outside the White House on Aug. 12 plan on keeping the event from turning violent by putting space between participants and counterprotesters, the D.C. chief of police said Monday.
Peter Newsham, the chief of the capital’s Metropolitan Police Department, said that authorities will keep opposing protesters apart in order to avoid repeating what happened precisely one year earlier during the deadly “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We 100 percent are going to make sure that groups remain separate,” Chief Newsham said at a news conference, WTOP reported. “The number one role is to make sure nothing gets broken, and nobody gets hurt. We will do that.”
Billed as a rally held in support of a Confederate monument slated for removal, last year’s “Unite the Right” culminated in a state of emergency and multiple fatalities after participants including neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists began fighting with counterprotesters. Two Virginia state troopers were killed in a helicopter crash monitoring the chaos, and Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, died after an “Unite the Right” participant drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, according to police.
Jason Kessler, a white nationalist activist who organized last summer’s demonstration, has received preliminary approval from the National Park Service to hold a “white civil rights” rally at Lafayette Park, directly north of the White House, on the anniversary of last year’s event, putting the MPD “in a very precarious position,” Chief Newsham said Monday.
“Our role is to make sure we have a First Amendment event that goes on without any type of violence or destruction of property. So we intend to have the entire police department engaged to make sure that we handle this,” he said at the news conference, Fox 5 D.C reported.
“We intend for these folks to come to express their First Amendment rights and to leave without incident,” he added.
Mr. Kessler, 34, said that that law enforcement “assured me that agitators will be kept apart at a safe distance.”
“Discussions are ongoing with law enforcement and the National Park Service,” he said in an email sent Sunday to individuals who expressed an interest in attending the rally.
A spokesperson for the park service told The Washington Times on Tuesday that Mr. Kessler’s event is approved, and that a permit will be issued “when we have the necessary information to ensure the safety of the public and the protection of park resources,” potentially as late as the week of the event.
“As the law enforcement arm of the National Park Service in Washington, the United States Park Police will be the lead agency for protection of park visitors and resources during the demonstration. In order to protect the integrity of our operations, we are not able to comment on specific plans, staffing levels or security techniques that will be employed, but we will collaborate with our law enforcement agency partners in the city to ensure the safety of all demonstrators, park visitors and members of the community,” NPS spokesperson Michael Litterst told The Times.