Counter protests drown out Washington DC white nationalist rally

A few dozen white nationalists have held a smaller-than-expected demonstration in Washington DC, marking one year since a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville where an anti-racism protester was killed by a far-right extremist.

Thousands took part in left-wing counter-demonstrations on Sunday, drowning out the white supremacists in the US capital, with colourful street processions and hours of chants, including a litany of signs and songs against US President Donald Trump.

Authorities kept the sides separated, with police having prepared for weeks to prevent violence.

The nationalist protesters - much smaller in number than even the limited group expected - were escorted by hundreds of security officials through the city, passing near the White House. They were surrounded by many more anti-hate demonstrators along the route.

The area around the White House was girded off by a slew of officers and a maze of barricades.

Many hundreds of leftists had gathered since the early afternoon at two rallies close to the White House, often holding up signs against Trump, who they accuse of aiding a resurgence of white nationalism.

"He really brought it out into the open," said Cindy James, a 57-year-old taking part in an anti-racism counter-protest around the corner from the presidential quarters.

Some carried signs denouncing Nazis and saying "White Supremacy is Terrorism." One had a t-shirt saying "Trump is a racist pig." There was a significant contingent of black-clad anarchists from Antifa, many covering their faces.

Mr Trump, who controversially said about last year's rally that there was an "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," is not in the capital this weekend.

The president weighed in a day ahead of the far-right gathering, condemning "all types of racism and acts of violence," in what sounded like a softer echo of his 2017 reluctance to condemn white nationalism.

"The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation," Mr Trump said on Twitter.

Last year's rally saw a white nationalist drive his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The suspect's trial will take place later this year.

Mr Trump ran on a campaign in 2016 that critics said contained winks to the far-right, including hardline views on immigration.

Last year's far-right resurgence was a spillover from rallies in the south of the country to preserve statues of leaders of the rebellion against the federal government in the civil war of 1861 to 1865. In part, the southern states fought to protect slavery.

Not given permission to protest again in Charlottesville, organisers moved the Unite the Right 2 event to Washington, with a permit allowing for up to 400 people. Permits for two counter-protests were issued for much larger crowds.

Reuters