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Permit approved for Unite the Right DC rally
The National Park Service (NPS) has issued the official permits for the white nationalist rally and a counterprotest that will take place in Washington, D.C., this weekend.
"Permits were issued this morning for Jason Kessler and ANSWER Coalition and will be posted on the National Park Service Freedom of Information Act website as soon as the [Freedom of Information Act] officer has reviewed them and applied any necessary redactions," said Mike Litterst, the chief of communications for the NPS, in a release Thursday.
The agency initially approved an application in June submitted by Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of last year's Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., but waited until Thursday to issue the official permit for the self-styled "white civil rights rally" because it was finalizing a security plan with law enforcement agencies.
The NPS has also issued permits for two counterprotests, including one organized by a coalition of 18 anti-fascist, anti-racist and feminist groups. Another permit was issued Thursday for a rally being organized by ANSWER coalition, a left-wing group.
The "Unite the Right 2" rally will be at Lafayette Park, near the White House, and comes on the anniversary of last year's deadly Charlottesville rally.
The white nationalist rally is expected to bring about 400 demonstrators as well at least 1,000 counterprotesters, according to the permits and applications.
Shut It Down D.C., one of the counterprotest groups, has called on all "anti-fascists and people of good conscience" to participate and "resist white supremacy."
The D.C. chapter of Black Lives Matter will also protest the rally.
"White supremacist, fascist rallies are all public displays of violence and calls for genocide," the group wrote on a fundraising website.
Correspondence between Kessler and the agencies showed that Kessler pressed the agencies to work quickly, citing concerns that a slow permitting process would lower turnout.
Law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Park Police and the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, said they are prepared to ensure the public safety of attendees.
Many demonstrators last year came to Charlottesville clad in militia attire and toting semi-automatic weapons.
The threat of violence has been a concern for activists and officials after white nationalists last year clashed with counterprotesters. A 32-year old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when a car was driven into a crowd of counterprotesters. The suspected driver that car was in Charlottesville to attend the United the Right rally.
D.C. law prohibits the open carrying of weapons and specifically disallows any weapons on public transportation, at protests or near the White House.
Authorities have faced backlash from civil rights groups for allowing the rally, with critics saying it is giving white supremacists a platform.
But the NPS said that it did not consider the white nationalists' message in allowing the rally.
"In approving the request of Jason Kessler to hold his rally in Lafayette Park, the National Park Service is neither condoning nor condemning the message being delivered by him," NPS spokesman Michael Litterst said in a statement. "We do not consider the content of the message presented in the permitting process."
Updated at 2:42 p.m.