WASHINGTON — As D.C. anticipates a planned white nationalist rally to coincide with the August one-year anniversary of the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, D.C.’s police chief is prepared for what’s to come.
“Our role is to make sure we have a First Amendment event that goes on without any types of violence or destruction of property,” D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said at a Monday news conference. “We intend to have the entire police department engaged to make sure that we handle this type of thing.”
Jason Kessler, an organizer of last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, submitted a request earlier this year to the National Park Service to hold a rally between Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 at Lafayette Square, right in front of the White House.
Still, Newsham said the District’s police department is experienced when it comes to potentially volatile rallies.
“We’ve had those types of high-tension assemblies in the District before. We 100 percent are going to make sure that groups remain separate,” Newsham said when asked about what strategies D.C. police might do differently than those employed in Charlottesville.
“The No. 1 role is to make sure nothing gets broken and nobody gets hurt. We will do that.”
Last year in Charlottesville, the clash between white nationalist protesters and anti-racist counterprotesters turned deadly: 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when a driver plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters.
For the planned D.C. rally, Newsham added, “We intend for these folks to come to express their First Amendment rights and to leave without incident.”