WASHINGTON — D.C.’s police chief said that planning allowed law enforcement to effectively separate the roughly two dozen white nationalists from the large crowds of people protesting the “Unite the Right 2” rally Sunday.
D.C. police Chief Pete Newsham said during a news conference Sunday evening that the department executed its plan to separate the two groups.
“They did it with class and professionalism,” Newsham told WTOP Monday morning. “Nobody was injured, nothing was significantly damaged.”
The “Unite the Right 2” rally was led by organizer Jason Kessler, and marked the anniversary of the deadly rally in Charlottesville that was organized by Kessler, as well.
Sunday’s rally was cut short, ending shortly after 5 p.m. The white nationalists were then taken in vans and escorted back to Metro before returning to Virginia. It was supposed to last until 7:30 p.m.
D.C. police used a deliberate distraction technique and pulled attention to a different area of Lafayette Square to shepherd the white nationalists to the vans.
Newsham denied that the white nationalists received special treatment, saying that there were no escorts and no special accommodations for the group. Every single action taken by police is to “ensure separation,” he said.
D.C. police’s plan for the rally was based in part on lessons learned from last year’s Charlottesville rally, the consequences of which were the result of a failure to keep the two groups separate, he said.
Metro made efforts to separate the white nationalists, as it was reported that the group took a private car from the Vienna Metro station to Foggy Bottom.
“There wasn’t a special train,” Deputy Chief Warren Donald of Metro Transit police said when asked at a news conference about the incident at the Vienna Metro station.
“What the officers did, they reserved one car to keep the two groups separate … The train made stops on its route to Foggy Bottom, just as it would any other service day, so it wasn’t a special train.”
When asked about the separate train cars for white nationalists during a news conference, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declined to comment on what Metro has done.
Anti-hate protesters dwarfed the small group of people who emerged from the Foggy Bottom Metro station escorted by law enforcement.
The handful of white nationalists headed toward Lafayette Square surrounded by hundreds of police on foot, bicycles and riding slow-moving motorcycles, who sequestered them from thousands protesters as they promenaded down the street.
Newsham said that the amount of money spent and the number of officers deployed for what appears to be a couple of dozen white nationalists are still being calculated and will be made available when it is done.
He said that with thousands of protesters, Sunday was a “significant event” in D.C.
“When these two groups have come together in the past, I don’t think size really makes any difference. We have seen violence. You need that number of officers to maintain order and make sure nobody gets hurt,” Newsham said.
In the D.C. area, there were two reported arrests linked to the rally.
Donald Franklin Georgette, 30, of D.C., was arrested at about 2:30 p.m. for allegedly spitting on two Virginia State police officers, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. He was charged with simple assault and taken to the Fairfax County jail.
D.C. police arrested John Mulligan, 44, of Pennsylvania, after he allegedly pepper sprayed the victim’s face on the 1300 block of New York Avenue.
They found that he was carrying a slingshot, shards of glass, stones and metal bolts.
It is not clear in which group the two men belong.
Newsham also said that police used pepper spray on a group of protesters that had approached officers on motorcycles in the area of 13th and G streets.
“They got very close to officers. One of the officers looked like he was being pushed up against the motorcycle and he deployed his pepper spray,” Newsham said. “We will investigate that incident to see if that use of force was appropriate.”
A group of about 150 to 200 anti-fascists confronted police about a half-mile from the White House after the rally broke up, The Associated Press reported.
Antifa is shorthand for the far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
In the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, four people have been arrested in incidents marking the anniversary of last summer’s violent white nationalist rally.
Authorities said in a statement Sunday that two arrests stemmed from a confrontation near a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee where a Spotsylvania, Virginia, man stopped to salute the statue and a Charlottesville woman confronted him and a physical altercation took place. Both face disorderly conduct charges.
Officials say a Charlottesville man who positioned himself in front of police motorcycle units also was arrested, as well as a Portland, Maine, woman following an altercation.
The Associated Press reported that earlier Sunday in Charlottesville, the mother of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters during last year’s rally, said there’s still much healing to be done.
Susan Bro laid flowers at a makeshift memorial at the site of the attack in downtown Charlottesville. With a crowd gathered around her, she thanked them for coming to remember her daughter but also acknowledged the dozens of others injured and the two state troopers killed when a helicopter crashed that day.
“There’s so much healing to do,” Bro said. “We have a huge racial problem in our city and in our country. We have got to fix this, or we’ll be right back here in no time.”
WTOP’s Nahal Amouzadeh, Chris Cioffi, Sarah Beth Henley, Will Vitka, Keara Dowd, Max Smith and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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