Two students are trying to turn a white nationalist rally into extra funds for an anti-hate organization.
Senior Kendall Keelen and junior Allison Herrity launched a “walk-a-thon” Tuesday, encouraging people to pledge money for each step a “Unite the Right” rally participant takes this Sunday. The two estimated the protesters will take about 1,500 steps during a 0.7-mile walk from the Foggy Bottom Metro station to Lafayette Square, where the demonstration will take place.
Donors can pledge 1, 2, 5 or 10 cents per step – totaling $15, $30, $75 or $150, respectively – or enter another amount. As of Friday, 47 supporters have raised $3,268.
The proceeds from the fundraiser – coined “Stomp Out Hate” and featuring the slogan, “where your neighborhood Nazi walks to end hate crimes” – will be donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group that litigates for social justice issues.
“This means that for every step these white nationalists take, the SPLC will be receiving funds to combat the very values they are gathering to propagate,” the fundraising page reads.
Keelen said that one year after the Charlottesville, Va. rally ended in a death, she and Herrity didn’t want to stand by while participants of the D.C. demonstration – which is organized by the same group as last year’s event in Charlottesville – walk through campus.
“It’s kind of scary to know that these groups are going to be walking right through, especially after what happened in Charlottesville and how violent it was,” Keelen said. “How we felt after Charlottesville and how we feel in this political climate – we figured that we’d put it to use.”
University officials announced they would ramp up security and shut down main campus buildings Sunday in anticipation of the protest, which is expected to draw hundreds of protesters and counter-demonstrators to the nation’s capital.
Keelen said the organizers will solicit donations until the end of August in the hopes of collecting $5,000. But she said the deadline may be extended depending on how many donations are collected after the rally ends Sunday evening.
The two are also promoting the fundraiser through a Facebook page and are using the fundraising website MightyCause. Keelen said that while she and Herrity will be on campus this weekend, they won’t physically participate in a counter-protest because of the violence in Charlottesville last year.
She said the fundraiser offers a non-physical way for students and outsiders to object to the rally.
“This is a way for students to do something about it, even if it’s not donating something, but spreading the word and using it as a platform to combat what they are doing,” Keelen said.
Herrity said she brought the idea of a walk-a-thon to Keelen after reading about a similar fundraiser in Germany that opposed an annual Nazi gathering in 2014. Residents of the town where the rally took place raised 10 euros for every 10 feet Nazis walked and donated the funds to a group that assists people trying to leave an extremist organization, she said.
“The Nazis couldn’t do their walk without having the residents donate money to this organization,” Herrity said. “We’re taking that idea with our ‘Stomp out Hate’ walk-a-thon.”
She added that the walk-a-thon is meant to be bipartisan, tying a spread of political groups together against those participating in Sunday’s rally.
“Obviously, we know there are libertarians and conservatives – people who don’t identify as liberal – who are not white supremacists, so we wanted to make it clear that what we’re trying to accomplish here is speak out against hate,” Herrity said.