Protests turn peaceful
Demonstrators descend on D.C., but violence stays away
WASHINGTON — With simultaneous protests by President Donald Trump’s supporters, anti-fascist militants and the proudly outré fans of the rap-metal band Insane Clown Posse, Saturday’s lineup of rallies on and around the Mall seemed almost designed to test Americans’ capacity for peaceable disagreement.
But as the day progressed and demonstrators of wildly different ideological stripes crowded into downtown Washington, that ideal did not seem so remote: By late afternoon, police reported no violence and said they had not made any arrests.
It was a relief for authorities in the District of Columbia, who had prepared for the possibility of violent clashes and taken extensive security precautions, deploying large numbers of police officers and National Guard members on the Mall and barricading surrounding streets.
Looming large over the day was the specter of Charlottesville, Va., where a white nationalist rally just over a month ago descended into a deadly riot. Police in the Virginia college town were later faulted for not reacting swiftly or forcefully enough to the violence.
But the protesters in Washington, unlike those in Charlottesville, did not show up armed with shields, clubs and guns, and they even implored one another at times to avoid brawling.
“Political violence happens in Russia, in Iran, in North Korea. It’s not supposed to happen here,” said Tommy Hodges, an organizer of the socalled Mother of All Rallies attended by Trump supporters.
“You should be able to say whatever you want without someone raising a fist against you.”
Addressing a crowd of a few hundred near the Washington Monument shortly before noon, Hodges pleaded for a peaceful gathering and asked his audience to “shake the hand of the person next to you.”
Standing in front of the White House at about the same time, Daniel Ward, a Marine veteran and Democrat running for Congress in Virginia’s 7th District, said he had been in his hometown of Charlottesville during the riot Aug. 12.
He said the violence — which culminated with a car that authorities said was driven by a man with white-supremacist ties plowing into a crowd, killing one and injuring 19 — reminded him of clashes between pro- and anti-Russian forces he had seen while serving in Ukraine.
“It was Charlottesville, not Ukraine,” he said.
“And that’s not OK.”
Ward took part in a march of several dozen people from the White House to the Russian ambassador’s residence on 16th Street, an elegant Beaux-Arts building where surveillance cameras looked down on a crowd that booed and shouted “Nyet!”
The march, intended to protest Russian interference in the presidential election, broke up peacefully.
Several hundred Juggalos, as fans of Insane Clown Posse call themselves, gathered at the Lincoln Memorial.
They were protesting their designation as a criminal gang by the FBI, and some said they were uninterested in the left-right political divide on display at Saturday’s other demonstrations.
Justin Thompson, a 24-year-old factory worker from a Detroit suburb, said he had driven to Washington in his pickup to show Juggalos “are just like everybody else.”
“We go to work. We pull our 9-to5s,” he said. “We take care of our kids and everything else.”
“Political violence happens in Russia, in Iran, in North Korea. It’s not supposed to happen here. You should be able to say whatever you want without someone raising a fist against you.”
Tommy Hodges, an organizer of the so-called Mother of All Rallies
The Juggalos, as fans of the rap-rock group the Insane Clown Posse call themselves, demonstrated Saturday on the National Mall. They are upset with the FBI for classifying them as a gang.