‘We the people of Washington, D.C. say unequivocally we denounce hate,’ said Mayor Muriel Bowser. (Screen capture via Facebook)
A contingent of LGBT activists is considering joining more than 1,000 counter protesters expected to show up on Sunday at Lafayette Square across from the White House to confront participants in a “Unite the Right” rally organized by white supremacist leaders, according to an official with the National LGBTQ Task Force.
Sarah Massey, the Task Force’s director of communications, said a coalition of LGBT activists invited her and the Task Force to join an LGBT contingent expected to participate in counter protests at Lafayette Park and other locations.
She said specific details of the actions of the LGBT contingent and the time and place it will gather on Sunday had yet to be announced as of late Thursday but were expected to be announced in a press release sometime on Friday.
“We want to make sure there is a loud and proud LGBT presence at the counter protests,” Massey told the Washington Blade on Thursday. “It will be a resist dance party type protest,” she said. “It will be completely peaceful and a powerful expression of love.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and District Police Chief Peter Newsham were joined by more than a dozen city officials and community leaders at a news conference on Thursday where they announced the city has spent months preparing for Sunday’s Unite the Right rally and the expected counter demonstrators.
Newsham said that unlike the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., one year ago that became mired in violent clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters, D.C. police and the U.S. Park Police have developed an operational plan to keep the opposing groups of protesters separated from one another.
“Every police action that you will see on Sunday will be done with the ultimate goal of ensuring the safety of everyone that attends,” he said.
Bowser said that while participants in the Unite the Right rally had a First Amendment right to express their views she was confident that they would be overshadowed by the city’s strong message of opposition to hate.
“On Sunday, we know we have people coming to our city for the sole purpose of spewing hate,” Bowser said. “We the people of Washington, D.C. say unequivocally we denounce hate, we denounce anti-Semitism, and we denounce the rhetoric that we expect to hear this Sunday,” she told the press conference, which was held at Adas Israel Congregation synagogue in Northwest D.C.
“The only right message and the message that I hope people carry as Washingtonians is love, inclusion and diversity,” she said.
Organizers of the Unite the Right rally have announced they plan to meet at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Vienna, Va., Metro station, where they plan to ride together to the Foggy Bottom station. From there they plan to march along Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. to Lafayette Square, where they plan to hold their rally from 5:40 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Newsham said at the press conference plans to use the Metro and march along Pennsylvania Avenue were considered tentative and could change.
A coalition of about 40 progressive organizations has announced plans for a counter demonstration at Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. beginning at noon on Sunday. Organizers said they plan to begin marching from Freedom Plaza to Lafayette Square at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The U.S. Park Service said it issued a permit for the Unite the Right rally at Lafayette Square and that rally organizers stated in their application for the permit that they expected about 400 people to attend the rally.
The Park Service has also issued permits to organizers of the expected counter protests for at least three sites – Freedom Plaza, McPherson Square and Lafayette Square.
The Washington Blade will provide an update on plans by the LGBT contingent of the counter protesters, including the location and time they plan to assemble, when that information becomes available.