White supremacists gathering for the Unite the Right 2 rally on Sunday in Washington, D.C., showed up 40 strong. Meanwhile, thousands of people met in the city prepared for a counter-protest.
With half of the seven-acre Lafayette park being full of anti-racist groups, they were certainly outnumbered. And the scene was full of messages of activism, and ultimately, celebration.
Bridget Todd, a 33-year-old Black woman and podcast host of “Stuff Mom Never Told You,” and D.C. native, said laughing, “They’re terrible at organizing. I had more people at my niece’s baby shower than this.”
She came to show the “Nazis” that they aren’t welcome.
Christine Roberts, a 55-year-old white woman from New Jersey, said, “I thought there would be more of the protesters. I didn’t realize there would be so many counter-protesters, so I’m really kind of thrilled.”
Bright signs were held with messages, like: “No Trump, No KKK, No fascist USA!,” “From Charlottesville to the White House: Shut down white supremacy,” and “I can’t believe I have to protest Nazis in 2018.”
Businesses and community members, additionally, let their disgust be known. A poster at a makeshift memorial for Heather Heyer at the site of her death said, “Heather,” and a cake at a bakery said, “NO HOME FOR HATE.”
The thousands sang songs including “We Shall Overcome,” on a march from MLK’s memorial to Lincoln’s memorial. There were also shouts of “Go home, Nazis!,” “Black Lives Matter!,” “Shame!,” and “You killed a girl in Charlottesville!” And a moment of silence took place for Heyer.
When Unite the Right 2 ended, counter-protesters bid them farewell with, “Na-na-na-na, hey hey, goodbye.”
People from all walks of life — from formal activists, to academics, veterans, students, teachers, families, to tourists — all came to join the 40 anti-racist groups and voiced anti-Trump views, disgust at racism and hate’s history and present, and highlighted how much of a failure Unite the Right 2 was.
Benjamin Garrett, a Vietnam War veteran, who lives in Maryland, raised a sign saying “Trump is a traitor”.
“He gives these people permission,” Garrett said. “Trump is a blatant racist.”
Jessica Balaschak, 43, a graphic designer from New York, recycled from a spontaneous protest at Trump Tower last year, “There aren’t ‘many sides.”
She said, “[White nationalists are] so confident that the government supports their views that they’re marching around showing their faces in public. This isn’t like arguing over the marginal tax rate. This is a very black-and-white situation.”
V.J. Hyde, a 38-year-old music teacher from Fairfax County, came with his wife and two daughters and a stack of posters and tape. One of his daughters told a friend that the rally attendees, “hate us.” Hyde’s response: “That’s pretty f—– up.”
Students were a part of the movement as well. Ameenah Elam, 21, said the hate in Charlottesville has a deep history, long before last year’s rally.
“It’s important to show any white nationalists or supremacists that we won’t stand for this.”
Ianta Summers, a counter-protester with a Black Lives Matter flag, said, “I have no problem with them and their protest. I have a problem with their ideals, and this just shows them, you can show up and speak, but you have to deal with the consequences.”
Khury Petersen-Smith of the International Socialist Organization who organized hundreds of counter-protesters said:
“If they [white nationalists] hope to spread their message of hate, they’ve been stopped in their tracks. People defied their fear and defied the idea that we should just ignore the far right and instead mobilized to shut them down.”