The white nationalist rally held across the street from the White House this weekend was vastly overshadowed by counter-protestors, as exhibited by a photo posted to the r/pics subreddit that shows “fewer than 40” white supremacists in attendance. After last August’s deadly rally in Charlottesville, North Carolina, “Unite the Right 2” was relocated to Lafayette Square via Facebook Messenger chats. The photo saw more than 54,000 “upvotes” on the site in the space of 21 hours.
The top response on Reddit indicates the crowd was even smaller than the photo suggests, since several of the people pictured were journalists covering the rally. Some commenters suggested national media attention only continues to exacerbate the attendance that white supremacist gatherings can garner on their own, since the first “Unite the Right” rally only had 500 participants, or 10 for every US state. Leading up to this weekend’s two-day anniversary rally, tech apps like Uber and Airbnb warned that users riding to and booking reservations for “Unite the Right 2” could be banned for violating the companies’ community agreements.
Despite Facebook’s efforts to purge extremists from its platform, conversations obtained by Inverse show rally organizers coordinating on Messenger’s app.
Apps, news media, and social platforms are just a few of the online forces that have shaped the conversation surrounding the alt-right. After counterprotester Heather Heyer was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by a Nazi supporter in Charlottesville, social justice and Antifa activists congregated over social media to convene in real life in the nation’s capital over the past few days, with a far greater ratio of success than their white supremacist counterparts.
There were few reports of violence between opposing protestors this weekend, with only one arrest after a man assaulted another man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. Law enforcement accompanied “Unite the Right 2” organizer Jason Kessler and his followers from a waiting DC Metro rail car at the Vienna Station to the park at about 1 p.m., then ushered them back in white vans at 5 p.m., after the conclusion of the rally.
After social media responders registered the low turnout of the event, attention refocused on the Washington Transit Authority, which allowed the white supremacist protestors to occupy a privately guarded rail car. DC’s Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen tweeted his disapproval, while Antifa members threw eggs at police and lit firecrackers.
While Kessler and his white nationalist followers gathered to protest what they deem to be “white civil rights abuses,” thousands of counterprotestors demonstrated that Washington, DC may have overcompensated for the perceived furor of the seemingly shrinking white supremacist movement.