White Nationalists Approved for Rally Outside White House to Mark Charlottesville

Demonstrators carry confederate and Nazi flags during the Unite the Right free speech rally at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017. (Emily Molli/NurPhoto/Sipa via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The white nationalists whose rally in Charlottesville last August led to the death of a counterprotester have applied to mark the anniversary with a rally outside the White House, and their initial application has been approved by the National Park Service.

“Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler was denied a permit to hold an anniversary rally in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park. “The proposed demonstration or special event will present a danger to public safety, and cannot be accommodated within the area applied for, or within a reasonable allocation of City funds and/or police resources,” City Manager Maurice Jones wrote in the denial.

Charlottesville also denied permits for four related planned events near the park on Aug. 12. Kessler filed a lawsuit over the denials that is still in litigation.

James Alex Fields Jr., who had traveled from Ohio to march with the white nationalists, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer after plowing his car into counterprotesters. The evening before the rally, the white supremacists held a tiki torch march on the University of Virginia campus chanting slogans such as “Jews will not replace us.”

In May, Kessler submitted an application with the NPS to hold a “white civil rights rally” running from the morning of Aug. 11 to the evening of Aug. 12 in Lafayette Park, on the north side of the White House. “Attendees will meet at a rally point of convenience for law enforcement, then march to Lafayette to give speeches, then march back to rally point with law enforcement,” he wrote in a description of the event, estimating 400 participants and three buses involved.

The NPS signed off on the application. A permit has not yet been issued.

“I am not surprised at him holding a rally away from Charlottesville, where he is not welcome,” Heyer’s mother Susan Bro told the Washington Post. “It will be interesting to see how the citizens of D.C. and others respond to his rally.”

An independent review of the violence in Charlottesville commissioned by city officials found in December that there were multiple failures of law enforcement that day including sluggish response to the events, a lack of coordination between agencies, and a lack of police presence where Fields’ car plowed into counterprotesters, who were marching on a side street away from the white nationalists.

“Because of their misalignment and lack of accessible protective gear, officers failed to intervene in physical altercations that took place in areas adjacent to Emancipation Park,” the report said. Charlottesville police “instructed their officers not to intervene in all but the most serious physical confrontations.”