Large press presence dominates Lafayette Square, Unite the Right rally

Aug. 12, 2018

Washington, D.C. — The Lafayette Square counter demonstration, with chants and large printed signs protesting the Unite the Right white supremacist rally, had larger press coverage than a counterprotest staged on the National Mall on Sunday.

Despite over 200 volunteers and 628 congregations represented, the United to Love rally, organized by the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, was held on Sunday at 11 a.m. with little media attention, according to a spokesperson. A cameraman from Channel 4, a local news station, was the only observed media presence.

“The media has been more focused on the negative aspect. There’s several positive groups and only a few have been mentioned,” Tom McCarthy, a Brookville, MD, resident and demonstrator at the United to Love rally, said.

A large stage, framed by banners displaying Anne Frank and Nelson Mandela quotes, took up the south side of the National Mall. Part church service and part rally, the audience displayed few protest signs. Instead of chants, they listened as the Lord’s Prayer was read in multiple languages.

“I’m here to state a positive message of love to counter the negative message of hate from the white supremacist groups,” McCarthy said.

The press coverage and the aggressive rhetoric was markedly higher at Lafayette Square, according to a sample of news organizations in attendance. The square, adjacent to the White House, was divided into two protest grounds. The middle ground was occupied by a dozen mounted police officers and additional officers spaced roughly five feet alongside barricades.

Occupy Lafayette, a counterprotest hosted by the ANSWER Coalition, began in the square at 1 p.m. and continued throughout the day as more counter groups arrived, including Shut It Down D.C., Black Lives Matter D.C., and members of antifa (anti-fascist) groups.

Aljazeera English had three teams of reporters moving throughout the marches in the streets and the two protest grounds in Lafayette Square, according to John Hendren, a correspondent with the network. National and international news outlets were spotted throughout the crowd.

“We didn’t get as much press,” Reverend Doctor Stacey Cole Wilson, an organizer of the United to Love rally, said. She echoed a sentiment shared by the majority of the dozen attendants polled. “I wish the media didn’t focus on what divides,” Wilson said.

Mike Holy, a Vietnam veteran, attended the counterprotest at Lafayette Square without affiliation to a group. The white supremacist demonstrators have already been given “too much play but ignoring them doesn’t work either,” Holy said.

Although he had been in the square protesting throughout the weekend, he stood to the side as groups chanting “No Nazis. No KKK. No Fascist USA” streamed onto the lawn.

“They won’t be able to march uncontested. It’s not what I fought for. What my dad fought for,” Holy said.

The few dozen Unite the Right demonstrators disbanded soon after 5 p.m. on Sunday, shortly after their event was scheduled to begin.

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