Washington, D.C., is no stranger to First Amendment demonstrations. But local police will have a heightened challenge this weekend as a trio of rallies will place groups with clashing political views in close proximity on the National Mall.
The Juggalo March begins at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial and ends near the Washington Monument. Around the same time, Trump supporters are staging what they’ve dubbed “The Mother of All Rallies” near the monument. Their website said they’ll “demand protection for traditional American culture.”
“You want to keep a separation between two groups with opposing views, because we see it in Washington, D.C., all the time, it’s a few bad actors within the group that are going to contribute to the violence,” said D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham.
The so-called “Juggalos,” many of whom paint their faces to resemble clowns, are fans of a hip-hop/rap-rock music duo called the Insane Clown Posse.
One mission of their march — which took more than a year to plan — is to protest the FBI’s 2011 classification of the group as a gang, after crimes were committed by people who identified themselves as Juggalos.
The group of self-described progressives plans to live broadcast their “free speech” rally on Facebook when it begins at 11 a.m.
“Anyone who would protest this rally is protesting America and showing themselves to be the very domestic enemies our Founding Fathers warned us about,” said a statement on the pro-Trump event’s website.
The gathering is expected to be countered by an anti-Trump rally near the White House. That demonstration will focus on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Newsham said his department is reading up on all the groups as it prepares for the weekend.
“We take a look at all the information associated with the groups that are coming in,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to determine whether or not we’re going to have a safe event.”
The National Park Service said Saturday will be one of the busiest event days of the year in Washington, D.C. Michael Litterst, public affairs officer for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said the department has issued 35 permits for the weekend, including a number of charity races and walks, a large cultural festival and two weddings.
“This year alone, we’re seeing an almost 15 percent increase in First Amendment demonstrations over the same time period as last year,” he said.