A large police presence kept the two sides separate in Lafayette Square, in front of the White House. After about two hours and some speeches, the "Unite the Right 2" rally ended early when it started raining and two police vans escorted the protesters back to Virginia.
Sunday's events, though tense at times, were far from the street fights that erupted in downtown Charlottesville a year ago, when a local woman was killed by a man who drove her car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
"Unite the Right 2" had been denied a permit in Charlottesville this year, but secured one for Washington. The organizers planned up to 400 protesters.
At the head of the white nationalist group was Virginia activist Jason Kessler, who helped organize last year's event in Charlottesville. He left with a handful of fellow protesters from a subway station holding an American flag and walked to the White House surrounded by police, while the counterattackers made fun of them and called them Nazis.
Dan Haught, a 54-year-old computer programmer from Washington, was attending his first protest at the White House with a sign saying "Back under your rocks, Nazi clowns."
"We wanted to send a message to the world that we overcame them," Haught said.
Last year's violence in Charlottesville convulsed the nation and provoked condemnations across the political spectrum. It was also one of the lowest moments of President Donald Trump's first year in office.
At the time, Trump said there were "very good people" on both sides, which provoked criticism from the other side of the political divide that he was equating the anti-protesters with those attending the rally, which included neo-Nazis and other supremacists. whites.
In Freedom Plaza, located at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue that leads to the US Capitol. UU., A few hundred counterattailers of all ages, including children and retirees, gathered in an apparently joyful atmosphere.
"The United States is for all of us, not only for some of us," said one poster, while another said: "Fight against the Nazis: an American tradition."
Last year, white supremacists carrying torches, ostensibly protesting the elimination of Confederate statues, marched through Charlottesville, Virginia, in two days of chaos that culminated in a man driving a car against a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing a woman and injuring 19 people.
The Charlottesville police faced massive criticism for their response and their failure to keep protesters and opponents apart from the protesters.
The police in Washington, which had begun to gather near Lafayette Square as early as 8 am, seemed determined to avoid the same pitfalls.
& # 39; As Nazi Germany & # 39;
Kei Pritsker, 22, a volunteer in the Washington area of the Answer Coalition who organized this year's protest, was optimistic that the violence would not be repeated, but said it was necessary to send a strong message to neo-Nazi sympathizers.
"It would be a big mistake if we allowed the fascists to simply enter the nation's capital and enter without opposition," he said.
The white supremacist movement is enjoying a greater sense of empowerment under President Donald Trump, he added.
"When Trump was elected, many of those people who harbored racist feelings, because they had the backing of a president, could come out and say this," said Pritsker.
Immediately after last year's march, Trump received widespread criticism when he initially appeared reluctant to condemn extreme right-wing extremists, many of whom joined behind him since his election.
On Saturday, the president issued a generic condemnation of "all types of racism and acts of violence" through Twitter.
A black man in counter-protest who would only give his name as Jim said the United States feels more racist under Trump.
"He has encouraged the whites now, if they are walking on the sidewalk, his position is that it is better to get out of the way," he told AFP.
"It was subtle, now it's not subtle, it's on your face, it's like Nazi Germany."
The organizers of the rally encouraged their supporters to bring only flags of the United States or the Confederation, not neo-Nazi emblems, and warned them to avoid reacting with anger to the counter-demonstrators.
All firearms were banned at the site of the Washington protest, including those legally transported by licensed gun owners, and the police placed posters urging people not to carry guns.
& # 39; Racial indignity & # 39;
Trump retweeted white nationalist material, said Mexicans crossing the border with the United States are rapists and drug traffickers, and tweeted degrading descriptions of black athletes and politicians.
In a recent outbreak, a former black employee of the White House, Omarosa Manigault Newman, wrote in an upcoming memoir that Trump uttered a racial insult "several times" while making his hit reality show "The Apprentice" before his presidential run, and that there are tapes to prove it. Trump called it a "bad life."