‘Whatever We Need to Do’: DC Police Hope to Keep White Supremacists, Counterdemonstrators Separate at Rallies

D.C. police will keep Unite the Right demonstrators and counterprotesters separated "with whatever we need to do," Chief Peter Newsham said

With a few hundred white supremacist demonstrators and even more counterdemonstrators expected to turn up near the White House for Sunday's "Unite the Right" rally, police are hoping to avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that erupted one year ago at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Up to 1,000 counterdemonstraters are expected at Freedom Plaza between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday for the DC United Against Hate rally and march, according to a permit issued by the National Park Service on Wednesday afternoon. Two other permits are pending for other counterdemonstrators.

After the rally, the group plans to march about five blocks to Lafayette Square, the site where between 200 and 300 white supremacists have proposed to rally. The permit for that rally is pending, a National Park Service spokesperson says.

D.C. Chief of Police Peter Newsham says officers will do whatever is necessary to keep Unite the Right rally attendees separate from counterdemonstrators.

"I can tell you, we're gonna make sure that that happens," Newsham said. "With whatever we need to do."

Newsham and the D.C. Council agreed to close the public and press out of a meeting Wednesday where police detailed plans to avoid a scene like Charlottesville.

"Our number one goal is to make sure nobody gets hurt and no property gets destroyed," Newsham said.

When white supremacist demonstrators and counterprotesters converged on Charlottesville in 2017, brawls broke out before a driver slammed into a crowd of counterprotestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring more.

A report found that police departments in Charlottesville failed to coordinate between agencies and keep demonstrators separate.

This year, Charlottesville officials have declared a state of emergency ahead of the anniversary of the rally. 

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared that the state of emergency would be in effect Aug. 10-12. In a press conference at city hall Wednesday, he said the state of emergency was declared for the potential impact of events planned during the Unite the Right rally in D.C. and in Charlottesville.

Newsham said that D.C. police coordinate with multiple agencies on a daily basis.

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