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On anniversary of Charlottesville, Washington braces for white nationalists

A year after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Washington D.C. braced Sunday for an influx of far-right protesters marching for “white civil rights” across the street from the White House.

Compared to the protest seen in Charlottesville last year, the white nationalists coming to D.C. are in sorry shape. The rally organizer, Jason Kessler, has been ostracized by most other far-right figureheads, who have actively encouraged others not to attend the D.C. rally. Kessler has also been struggling to raise funds to support his far-right “activism” and can now only accept cash and check donations.

Despite this, neither authorities nor counter-protesters are taking any chances at this year’s rally, which is scheduled to take place at 4 pm Sunday in Lafayette Square, a small park just across from the White House.

At least five law-enforcement agencies — the Washington Metropolitan Police, U.S. Park Police, US Secret Service, Federal Protective Service and the U.S. Marshal Service — are policing this Sunday’s event.

Streets along the mile-long route to be taken by the marchers, as well as the area around the White House and the Foggy Bottom Metro Station,  where Kessler and his group are set to be arriving, have been closed off.  Those protesting at the park can expect a heavy police presence.

Counter-protesters are expected to descend in numbers on Lafayette Square to drown out Kessler. There are also half-a-dozen events occurring throughout D.C. on Sunday, including two rallies at Freedom Plaza at midday. Experts expect Kessler and his white nationalists to be outnumbered by at least 10 to 1.

Many local businesses have also decided to shut out any white nationalists who might try to visit their establishments. As the Washingtonian reported, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington sent out a toolkit in advance containing legal information about business owners’ rights to refuse service to White Nationalists.

“This is our city. Our house. Our people,” Dan Simons, who owns Founding Farmers restaurant near Lafayette Square, told the Washingtonian. “We’ve told our team: this isn’t what that is. You don’t have to be in a room with someone who’s advocating for your death and enslavement.”

Meanwhile Uber and Lyft drivers are debating whether or not they want to work in areas where white nationalists may be active on Sunday. According to the Washington Post, Uber message boards have been warning drivers to stay away from Foggy Bottom. Uber also reportedly sent a reminder of community guidelines to drivers in the Washington region, reminding them it’s their right to kick passengers out if they are harassed or threatened.

A Lyft spokeswoman said the company had sent out a similar reminder. “[Driver’s] safety comes first,” Darcy Yee said. “If they ever feel uncomfortable or disrespected by a passenger, they can cancel that ride.”

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