White nationalists hide behind flags as high-profile rally fizzles

Published: Aug. 13, 2018 at 9:48 AM EDT
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In the shadow of the White House, Charlottesville white nationalist Jason Kessler led a small group of followers to a high-profile white power rally on the 1-year anniversary of his 'Unite the Right' rally that ended with the deaths of Heather Heyer and two Virginia State Police troopers.

While Kessler wore a suit, many hid behind the American flag — protected by the First Amendment and an army of police officers.

Most did not want their identities known. One young adult, wearing a baseball helmet, sunglasses and a handkerchief in front of his mouth, said he came to "stand up for my people's future."

But Lafayette Park belonged to counter-protesters, outnumbering the white power rally about 100 to 1.

Rev. Graylan Hagler says he — and thousands more like him — couldn't sit back as white nationalists trumpeted racism in the public square.

"This is incendiary language that leads towards violence, we saw that last year," he said.

The first Unite the Right rally took place one year ago, in Charlottesville. There, white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed dozens of times, resulting in mass violence, three deaths, and dozens of charges against people involved, as well as

to determine what went wrong.

Police in D.C. this year inserted themselves in the middle ,with the rallyers on one side and counter-protesters the other. Our crews did not witness any violence first-hand.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called for the rally to be ignored. But Hagler preached that people need to stand up, so the country doesn't slide back into a history marred by slavery and lynching.

"That's a part of the history that these folks represent," he said, "and so it's really important for us to say 'no, we can't just allow in a sense a resurgence of these things."

Severe weather rolled in by the early evening Sunday. That seemed to give counter-protesters a spark, while washing out the second Unite the Right rally well before its scheduled end.