Critics wonder whether Washington, D.C., police spent too much effort protecting two dozen white supremacists at a Sunday rally. The rally’s organizer said the event went so smoothly, he wants to return.
As the Washington, D.C., region tallies the cost of a massive police effort to protect two dozen white supremacists who rallied on Sunday, some are questioning whether the extremist group received too many accommodations, the Washington Post reports. D.C. police and the mayor called the event a success — no injuries, one minor arrest — and said security measures were designed to separate white nationalists and counterprotesters with a history of violent clashes. Those same methods included what appeared to observers as amenities — police escorts and a semiprivate Metro rail car to spirit the rally’s organizer, Jason Kessler, in and out of Washington. “All these police here, and they’re protecting them?” said Bethan Neal, who joined thousands of counterprotesters held by police at a distance from Kessler and his group.
The region’s ability to ensure a peaceful event may turn out to be a double-edged sword. Kessler, who thanked law enforcement agencies for protecting his right to free speech, said it went so smoothly, he’d like to return. “Hopefully we’ll do more demonstrations in the D.C. area in the future,” he said. Police called the rally a unique event that should not set a precedent for other small groups with incendiary messages to expect the same level of police protection. A spokesman for D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said the violent history between Sunday’s groups set it apart. He said that getting Kessler’s group safely out of Lafayette Square, where the rally was staged, required an “alternative plan” because the anti-fascist group known as antifa and other groups had gathered outside the rally’s entrance points. “There was a sense that tensions were rising,” the chief said. The supremacists walked to the park, flanked by police. After the rally, they left amid an angry throng with the help of police.