Washington was bracing for a white nationalist rally on Sunday organized to coincide with the anniversary of last year’s racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The “Unite the Right 2” event was scheduled to take place at 5:30 pm EDT (2130 GMT) in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House. Several counter-protests have also received permission to gather nearby.
Authorities have promised an enormous police presence to keep both sides apart and avoid the street brawls that broke out last year in downtown Charlottesville. A local woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when an Ohio man, James Fields, drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.
At the time, President Donald Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides, spurring criticism from across the political divide that he was equating the counterprotesters with the rally attendees, who included neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.
On Saturday, Trump condemned “all types of racism” in a Twitter post marking the anniversary.
In Washington on Saturday evening, nearly two dozen police officers patrolled Lafayette Square. Members of the Washington chapter of Black Lives Matter were sprinkled through the park, seemingly standing on guard.
Organizers of #OccupyLafayettePark, a civil rights group that holds nightly protests in the square, held up posters reading “Love America, Hate Trump” and “Defend The District From White Supremacy” just a few steps away from the White House.