Did you happen to catch the massive white supremacy march on our nation’s capital yesterday? You’re to be forgiven if you didn’t since it basically didn’t happen. After days on end of massive media hype – which I confess I bought into myself – the second Unite the Right rally in Washington turned out to be an affair which could just as easily have been held in a decent sized garage. Jason Kessler showed up in town with a grand total of as many as two dozen followers, but as NBC recounts from their coverage, by the time they took the Metro down to Foggy Bottom, several of them peeled away, leaving less than 20 race warriors to march around in a small, sad circle, only to leave early, apparently because it began raining.
The hundreds of counter-protesters who congregated in Lafayette Park on Sunday, just steps away from the White House, dwarfed the fewer than 20 people who showed up for the second Unite the Right rally, a gathering aimed to bring together multiple white nationalist organizations. In total thousands took to the streets to protest the group’s presence and purpose.
Jason Kessler, the white nationalist organizer of the Unite the Right rally, was accompanied by a few dozen people when he arrived at the Vienna, Virginia, subway station at about 2 p.m. ET. There they boarded three train cars and went to the Foggy Bottom stop in Washington.
But when they arrived, their number appeared to have dwindled to fewer than 20 individuals — though Kessler acquired a permit that allowed for up to 400. The entire event appeared haphazard, disorganized and did not carry a clear message.
So what was the point of all this? Don’t get me wrong… the press needed to be on hand in case there actually was some large rally or if violence broke out between the disparate groups. But nothing happened. Is this the extent of the “rising white supremacy movement” which has supposedly flourished across the country since Donald Trump took office? Some of the counterprotesters were cheering the small turnout, saying that they had succeeded in scaring Kessler’s people sufficiently to keep them away. But if that was the objective, it’s a poor one. We’re not supposed to be suppressing speech, bur instead opposing it with more positive speech.
The only real story of the day was Antifa being Antifa as usual, assaulting police and reporters. As I wrote yesterday, it started at the Charlottesville march where they were obviously there to protest the police, not any white supremacists.(Some good videos at that link if you missed it over the weekend.) The Antifa presence in Charlottesville, however, was dwarfed by the number of “soldiers” they rounded up in Washington. And once again, they were there to fight, not speak.
To be sure, I have zero doubt that Antifa would have been happy to start swinging at Kessler’s people if they weren’t surrounded by ten times as many police officers as there were Nazis. But since nobody showed up to fight, Antifa had to find a new target. As usual, it was the police. They had already assaulted at least one police officer in Virginia, an event which is now under investigation. They were throwing bottles at the cops and firing bottle rockets toward law enforcement lines.
The police weren’t the only targets of Antifa anger, however. They were going after the media, too.
Protestors didn’t want to be filmed and cut my photographer’s audio cable cord. pic.twitter.com/GBLryCjWZs
— DeJuan Hoggard (@DeJuanABC11) August 12, 2018
Even CNN’s Brian Stelter got in on the action from his social media perch, noting that the Antifa thugs were trying to silence the press. (Wait… isn’t that supposedly Trump’s job?)
Here are some of their charming soliders now, roaming the streets and chanting, “No border. No wall. No USA at all.”
Unacceptable behavior by a protester in C'Ville last night — violently swatting away a journalist's camera — I asked @CalNBC for more info, and he deferred to his tweets, which described the protest as "almost exclusively Antifa at that point." https://t.co/BJ2t5HGceZ
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 12, 2018
I’m not denying that there are isolated pockets of serious neo-Nazis and white supremacists out there. But that’s also nothing new. They’ve been lurking around for my entire adult life, though you don’t often hear too much from them in the modern era (thankfully). But it’s starting to seem as if the press is building more of a hype machine around this than their small numbers and even smaller influence warrant. Even the rally Kessler organized last year only managed to draw a couple of hundred people, and they were coming from all over the country just to assemble that many. Meanwhile, the media coverage of violence by Antifa is timid by comparison, assuming it’s picked up at all.
The final thing to watch out for is the line of inevitable excuses we’ll hear this week about how the insignificant number of white supremacists we saw yesterday are somehow “speaking to a larger trend.” If you start conflating people with a different opinion on border enforcement than yours to actual neo-Nazis we’re no longer talking about journalism. It’s simply hype.