A planned demonstration by white nationalist extremists in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been described as the “largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States” by a monitoring group.
The Unite the Right gathering of extremists protesting the removal of a Confederate-era statue will draw alt-right groups, neo-Confederates, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis, all of whom have been “emboldened by the Trump presidency,” according to nonprofit civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The extremists will be met by counter-demonstrators from left-wing and civil rights groups, including Antifa and Black Lives Matter, with Virginia state law enforcement officers equipped with riot gear to police the event alongside officers from local forces.
Law enforcement officials believe the rally could draw thousands, according to local media reports. Congregate Charlottesville, a multi-denominational clergy group, made a July call for 1,000 clergy, especially white clergy, to attend the rally in protest, according to the Charlottesville Courier Dispatch.
According to the SPLC, Saturday’s event will be the first large-scale physical meeting by disparate white nationalist and far-right groups, who have previously been confined to extremist messaging boards, websites and social media.
Among those expected to address the gathering are alt-right provocateur Richard Spencer, and rapper turned alt-right troll Tim Gionet, also known as "Baked Alaska," reports Vice.
“This is the biggest rally event we’ve had this millennium,” event organizer Brad Griffin said on a recent radio showed hosted by former KKK leader David Duke.
Racial activists “get hung up on interacting with people online,” and the racist message board culture has its drawbacks, Griffin said, creating “a lot of paranoia when people don’t know each other in real life.”
But the Unite the Right rally will give “the movement a real world presence, which it hasn’t had in 15 years,” Griffin said.
On Monday, Gizmodo reported that extremists planning to attend the event had complained on Twitter that their Airbnb accounts had been canceled. Airbnb told the outlet that it reserved the right to remove users who breach its non-discrimination clause.
“When through our background check processes or from input of our community we identify and determine that there are those who would be pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we seek to take appropriate action including, as in this case, removing them from the platform,” the company said in a statement.
The demonstration organizers are currently embroiled in a dispute with Charlottesville officials, who say they will only give permission for the demonstration to go ahead if it is moved to the city's McIntyre Park due to security concerns, the Richmond Courier Dispatch reported.
Organizer Jason Kessler claims the order violates the First Ammendment rights of protesters, and the site lacks the resonance of their favored meeting place, which was formerly known as Lee Park, and has been officially renamed Emancipation Park. A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is scheduled to be removed by municipal authorities from the site, which has sparked protests by the radical right.
White nationalist extremists have already held several demonstrations at Emancipation Park, including a March torchlit rally led by Spencer, and a July KKK rally in which racist demonstrators were reportedly significantly outnumbered by counter-demonstrators.
Newsweek has contacted the Department for Justice for comment on the planned gathering.