City Desk

The Four People You Meet at an Aryan Nations Protest

White-supremacist protesters from the group Aryan Nations marched on Congress Saturday. Fortunately, they were only part of the news. There were four different types of people you could meet at the protest:

Aryan Nations Supporters: Well, not so much meet as watch from 30 feet behind police fences. From their starting point at Lincoln Park to their march to the Reflecting Pool, the 14 Aryan Nations protesters were surrounded by a thick layer of police with bikes, cars, and horses.

The march was ostensibly about atrocities committed against white South Africans. "We're not talking about racism," insisted one speaker at Lincoln Park.

But that was tough to believe when he used it as a pivot to talk about which races are more prone to commit crimes, and it became even less credible when he chanted that the K.K.K. "is here to stay."

It was hard to hear much of what he or any protester was saying, though, because of the...

Counter-Protesters: The easiest way to square a massive public commitment to the exercise of such hideous views is to treat it like a tribute to the First Amendment. But that wasn't good enough for the 30 or so counter-protesters who stopped the march every few blocks, only dispersing minutes before they were arrested.

The most dedicated counter-protesters pushed their bodies against the police horses—take this guy—or forced the march to go around them, like D.C. resident Kayeen Thomas.

"I feel like I have a responsibility to stop these people from being here," Thomas told me, shortly after getting into a shoving match with police.

Police: For a second, it looked like MPD was losing control. Officers on horseback were pushing back counter-protesters in front, but counter-protesters had come in behind them, too. One counter-protester remarked how easy it would be to reach the Aryan Nations members.

But then Capitol Police officers in riot gear showed up. With Capitol Police lining the road, it was much harder to get close to the Aryan Nations protesters. "Thanks, guys, we've got them behaving now," yelled one MPD officer.

Spectators: To show how much more sedate the District's reaction to racist marches is these days, compare Saturday's protest with a 1982 K.K.K. march. At that rally, counter-protesters broke windows and looted businesses. This time, people brought their babies and dogs.

While dislike for the Aryan Nations was universal, differences between spectators and counter-protesters soon became clear. Early in the march, one counter-protester accused of a man on the sidewalk of being a Nazi...because he had an American flag on his shirt.

Photo by Will Sommer

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  • Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich

    I am black and I don't like what the Aryans preach. However, they have a right to free speech. This is what America is all about. Some want to take free speech away from us with political correctness.

  • Typical DC BS

    The ridiculous and criminal behavior of the counter-protesters always makes them seem more of a danger than the white power groups they protest against. Kind of like the Occupy nitwits.

  • thatshitcray

    The Aryan Nation people certainly do suck but the counter protesters seem to have been the biggest assholes of the bunch. Pushing the police that I am sure were thrilled to be there anyway.

  • Kava

    I applaud the counter-protestors for exercising their freedom of speech. Aryan Nations has a platform that denies that and other freedoms to pretty much everyone they saw Saturday. We chanted, sang songs and made it clear that their views can be espoused, but not excersised. Defending their freedom of speech makes it an obligation to call them out on such hypocrisy on their part.

    By the way, 30?

  • Will Sommer


    "30" refers to the number of counter-protesters who physically lined up in front of the police horses, not just anyone who showed up to oppose the Aryan Nations marchers. I think that's a fair estimate.

  • Fernando Diaz

    That picture is awesome. Where did you get it?

  • Will Sommer

    Thanks! Just took it myself.

  • justin boggess

    Everyone don't have to agree on all their beliefs but when something is right it should be heard and respected. The aryan nations we're their to stand up for innocent people that are being killed and they we're blew off like it was no big deal! So who's really the bad people?? If they we're there to stand up for blacks or jews who were being killed for no reason then would it have touched everyones hearts.