A spate of right-wing hate groups are planning a joint rally on Saturday in Charlottesville, VA called “Unite the Right Free Speech Rally.”
Metro US said Wednesday that thousands are expected to turn out in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park — formerly named Lee Park for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — to protest the removal of a statue of Gen. Lee in what the Southern Poverty Law Center described as the “largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.”
“The ‘summer of hate’ gathering is expected to lure alt-right groups, neo-Confederates, KKK members and neo-Nazis from behind their computers and keyboards and into the streets, creating a unity the groups can only achieve by personal, nonanonymous connections,” wrote Metro’s Kimberly M. Aquilina.
“This is the biggest rally event we’ve had this millennium,” said event co-organizer Brad Griffin on a radio show hosted by former KKK leader David Duke. The gathering, he said, will give “the movement a real-world presence, which it hasn’t had in 15 years.”
However, if recent far-right, pro-Trump protests are any indication, the march could well fizzle. Often these events are far overmatched by the number of counter-protesters who attend like the “anti-Sharia Law” marches held across the U.S. in early June.
In late June, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer and rabid Trump booster Jack Posobiec hurled insults and recriminations when simultaneous alt-right rallies in Washington, D.C. drew tiny groups of supporters.
Spencer called Posobiec and “Pizzagate” conspiracy progenitor Mike Cernovich’s rally the “alt-lite” contingent and said, “So many of them are just physically ugly people.”
Neither rally had many attendees to brag about, with each drawing well under 100 participants.
However, the SPLC warned that racist hate groups have been emboldened by Trump’s presidency and potentially intend to create as much disruption and disorder as they can at Saturday’s rally.
“The looming social chemistry on a hot summer weekend — 115 miles from Washington, D.C.– seems to point to the clear possibility of violence,” wrote Bill Morlin. “Riot-equipped Virginia State Police will augment local police and sheriff’s deputies.”
Some in local city government attempted to shut the rally down, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has come forward to defend organizer Jason Kessler and other demonstrators’ First Amendment right to free speech and peaceable assembly.