Thousands of counterprotesters gathered outside of the White House Sunday afternoon to object to the second “Unite the Right” rally.
Counterprotesters began gathering at several points across the District Sunday morning in preparation for the rally, armed with flags and shirts featuring slogans like “Black Lives Matter,” “smash white supremacy” and “Erase Racism.” Hundreds flocked to Freedom Plaza at about noon, where a handful of speakers looked onto a crowd of people carrying signs reading, “hate has no home here” and “we will outlast Trump.”
Graylan Hagler, a pastor at Plymouth United Church of Christ and one of the speakers at Freedom Plaza, said the United States is a country of inclusivity, where xenophobia and white supremacy should not be tolerated.
“We are people that stand against this hateful message that these fools in the White House and these fools in Congress are trying to perpetrate on the people of this nation,” Hagler said. “We are not going to stand for it. We will never be silent.”
Nearby, volunteers dispersed water bottles and sunscreen from pop-up medical tents. One of the volunteers, Sam Grafton – an alumnus who graduated in 2016 and a licensed EMT in Virginia – carried a bag of medical supplies in case of an emergency.
At the first “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. exactly one year ago, one person died and a dozen others were injured when a car rammed into a group of counterprotesters.
“All it takes is just one,” Grafton said. “If that happens, we will be ready with first aid supplies, but hopefully it won’t be necessary.”
No injuries were reported during Sunday’s protests and counterdemonstrations.
Counterprotesters migrated to Lafayette Square at about 2 p.m., where ANSWER Coalition – an antiwar and civil rights protest group standing for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism – gathered with other groups to resist white nationalism and its supporters attending Sunday’s rally.
Eugene Puryear, a community organizer for ANSWER Coalition, said the group began planning the counterprotest about six weeks ago. He said it wasn’t a surprise that thousands turned out to oppose the white nationalist rally, since millions had expressed interest online.
“We are many, and they are few,” Puryear said.
When roughly 25 rallygoers arrived at the Foggy Bottom Metro Station at about 3 p.m., they were met with opposition from hundreds of counterprotesters chanting, “shame.”
Courtney Barker, a counterprotester and a seventh-grade science teacher at Deal Middle School in Ward 3, said she turned out to the counterdemonstration because she has “empathy for other humans.” She said as a teacher, she wanted to speak out against the “Unite the Right” rally to show support for her students of color.
“School starts back tomorrow, and I want to be able to look my kids in the eyes and say, ‘I support you, and I care to help you, and I care about you,’ and this is the best way I know how to show it,” Barker said.
Madge McQueen, who attended the counterprotest last year in Charlottesville, said she decided to speak out against the rally again to protest the “egregious lie” that white people are better than others.
“It’s senseless hatred, and it doesn’t take care of whatever is ailing people inside of themselves,” McQueen said. “This hatred doesn’t heal whatever is broken. It is an illusion of being better.”
Several students participated in Sunday’s counterdemonstrations, days after more than a dozen student groups released statements condemning the white nationalist rally. University President Thomas LeBlanc also denounced the rally Friday, as officials prepared to shut down main buildings and bolster security efforts ahead of the protest.
Cayla Harris, Liz Provencher and Sarah Roach contributed reporting.