Heavy police presence in Washington for “Demand Free Speech” rally

Last Updated Jul 7, 2019 2:10 PM EDT

Washington — Police in Washington, D.C., were on alert Saturday for possible clashes between right-wing groups and counter-protesters holding demonstrations in the nation’s capital, but the “Demand Free Speech” rally remained largely peaceful. There were no major incidents reported at the protests in Freedom Plaza, just a few blocks from the White House.

Hours before the rival rallies, there was already an extremely heavy police presence. Police say they were hoping for safe and peaceful demonstrations, but that’s not what happened last week in Portland, Oregon, when clashes broke out between rallies by right-wing groups and counter-protesters.

One of the groups involved in the Portland demonstration was the so-called Proud Boys, who have been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and banned from Facebook. The Proud Boys also made an appearance at Saturday’s demonstration.

Other speakers at the demonstration included controversial author Milo Yiannopoulos. The rally’s website promoted an appearance by former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, but he did not show up. Stone remains under a gag order, which actually blocks him from publicly discussing his ongoing legal case stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Counter-demonstrations gathered across the street with the goal of outnumbering the other protest, and stopping alt-right and white nationalist messages from spreading.

The park service said it gave the two groups permits to demonstrate. Federal agencies worked with local police to make sure the protests stayed calm. 

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