There was a strong police presence at Lafayette Square Saturday evening ahead of Sunday's "Unite the Right 2" rally.
As the weekend approached, D.C. officials prepared for the "Unite the Right 2" rally that's set to take place on the anniversary of a violent rally in Charlottesville, Va. where one woman died and 19 others were injured. White Supremacists plan to gather at Lafayette Square, a park located directly across from the White House.
The violence in Charlottesville began once rally participants and counter-protesters clashed and a man drove a car into a group of counter-protesters.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Police Chief Pete Newsham said the city is preparing to ensure everyone's safety during this year's rally that's scheduled to happen on Sunday, Aug. 12.
On Saturday, tourists took advantage of a quiet evening to get a glimpse of the White House. One of them, whom asked not to be named, said he planned to stay away from the rally on Sunday.
" I wanted to make sure it wasn’t today. I would not come tomorrow, just to avoid collateral damage," he said.But others, like Shane Sylgester said they'll be at the park tomorrow. But for how long? That depends on how things play out.
“If things get out of hand, I plan to be gone,” said Sylgester.
The rally in Charlottesville, known as Unite the Right, was organized to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. During this time, removal of Confederate statues were taking place across the country.
The rally trailed two other notable protests that took place in Charlottesville last summer. Richard Spencer, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, led a group of torch-carrying protesters to the Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park in May 2017. In July 2017, members of a Ku Klux Klan chapter and counter-protesters gathered at a park for a "loud and angry," but nonviolent protest.
During the Unite the Right rally on Aug. 12, 2017, rally participants included neo-Nazi and alt-right members. Rally participants carried rifles, shields, neo-Nazi paraphernalia, Confederate battle flags and reportedly chanted Nazi slogans.
Both rally participants and counter-protesters gathered in Emancipation Park where the groups clashed and the rally turned violent.
The morning of Aug. 12, 2017, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency due to the rally's violence.
A few hours later, police say 21-year-old rally participant James Alex Fields, Jr. drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
Fields was indicted for the death of Heyer and charged with 30 hate crimes. His trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 26, 2017.
Two Virginia State Police officers also died in a helicopter crash while assisting police activity related the rally. The pilot, 48-year-old Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian, and 40-year-old Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, died at the scene.
Washington, D.C. rally
Kessler applied for a permit to gather in Charlottesville on the anniversary of the first Unite the Right rally, but was denied. His application for a permit in D.C. was approved for a march from Foggy Bottom Metro station to a demonstration at Lafayette Park outside the White House. The permit said 100-400 participants are expected to attend.
Police are expecting people with the Unite the Right group to travel from the Vienna Metro Station to Foggy Bottom and then head to Lafayette Square. Officers will be along that route, but Chief Newsham said that route could change.
D.C. is expecting hundreds of white nationalists for a Unite the Right rally outside the White House. Multiple counter-protests are also scheduled to take place in the area. D.C. police said they will do everything they can to keep the groups separated.
In a news conference on Thursday, D.C. police said the Unite the Right rally is something they have been planning for months.
Chief Newsham said the main goal is to make sure property does not get damaged and people do not get hurt.
Guns are banned at this year's rally, even for people that have a legal permit.
Mayor Bowser made it clear during the news conference that hate is not what the District is about. She activated the city's Emergency Operations Center, giving law enforcement groups the green light to deploy any and all of the resources needed to keep the city safe.
Chief Newsham said that local law enforcement is fully prepared to handle whatever happens this weekend. He said they've taken lessons from what happened a year ago in Charlottesville, Va.