D.C. Metro Considering Private Cars For Participants In White Supremacist Rally

Next week, some of the same groups that rallied in Charlottesville last year will be gathering in Washington, D.C. and the D.C. Metro is considering a transportation plan that is causing controversy.

It has been just under a year since a march in Charlottesville, Virginia primarily attended by an assortment of alt-right white supremacists, Nazis, and self-identified members of the Ku Klux Klan resulted in the murder of a young woman who was in town to protest against the rally. The purported intent of that rally was to protest against plans by the city to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a prominent location in the city. Rather than being just a simple rally about a statue, though, the event clearly had overtones of a Nazi rally at Nuremberg in the 1930s with Nazi-era slogans like “Blood and Soil!” and “The Jews will not replace us!” were chanted by torch-bearing men, followed by a rally the following day that resulted in violence between participants and counter-protestors that led to the death of one woman and more than a dozen injuries. These events, of course, took on a national tone thanks to the President’s response to the tragic events of that Saturday. In his initial response, Trump blamed ‘both sides’ for the violence, referred to the participants in the rally as “very fine people,” and  refused to directly condemn groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, which was present at the rally, or the broader so-called alt-right movement whose supporters made up the vast majority of the participants. The outrage over these comments was sufficiently broad, even from fellow Republicans in Washington, that the White House was compelled to have Trump deliver a follow-up comment the following Monday that was more measured and emphatic than what he had said before. Whatever damage had been repaired by that statement, though, was short-lived, though, because less than twenty-four hours later Trump repeated his ‘both sides’ argument in a press conference at Trump Tower in New York and then repeated it again a month later in the wake of a meeting purportedly intended to discuss race with Republican Senator Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate.

Now with that one year anniversary approaching, many of the same groups that organized the rally in Charlottesville are planning to gather in Washington, D.C., and local media is reporting on what seems to be some unusual concessions purportedly being made by the local transit authority:

WASHINGTON (ABC7) — Sources told members of Metro’s largest union that a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated hate group will receive special accommodations following the “Unite the Right” rally in Washington, D.C.

The sources shared with ATU Local 689 that the hate group will be provided with three private Metro rail cars and a police escort that will allegedly stop at the Foggy Bottom Metro Station on August 11 and 12. From there, sources say the group will march through the streets of D.C. before arriving at Lafayette Park for the rally.

ATU Local 689 members say they “have been informed and are encouraged to follow safety protocol in the presence of this hate group if the rumored special accommodations General Manager Paul Wiedefeld plans to give are true.”

The Union released a statement about the matter:

“Local 689 is proud to provide transit to everyone for the many events we have in D.C. including the March of Life, the Women’s March and Black Lives Matters. We draw the line at giving special accommodation to hate groups and hate speech, especially considering that the courts granted Metro the ability to deny ads on buses and trains that are ‘issue-oriented,’ we find it hypocritical for Mr. Wiedefeld to make these unprecedented special accommodations for a hate group.”

And the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) issued a statement as well:

“As we do for all events of this nature, Metro is working collaboratively with law enforcement to ensure safe travel for our customers and employees. Transit Police are engaged in ongoing discussions with MPD, the lead agency for the Aug. 12 event, as well as Virginia State Police and others as to how to keep everyone safe on that day. While details of the plan are security sensitive at this stage, I can tell you that it has *not* been finalized.”

Fox5DC, the local Fox Broadcasting affiliate posted this report this morning:

Metro officials are considering offering a private train for white nationalists participating in the Unite the Right rally in the District, according to Metro union workers.

ATU Local 689 said sources have told them that Metro officials are considering to provide members of the Unite the Right rally with three private rail cars on one Metro train to participate in their event scheduled for Aug. 12.

The union said the plan being considered would provide the train and police escort from Virginia to the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station. The crowd would then march through the District to Lafayette Park near the White House.

ATU Local 689 is opposed to what they are calling special accommodations while more than 80 percent of its membership are people of color.

“Local 689 is proud to provide transit to everyone for the many events we have in D.C. including the March of Life, the Women’s March and Black Lives Matters,” ATU Local 689 President Jackie Jeter said in a written statement. “We draw the line at giving special accommodation to hate groups and hate speech, especially considering that the courts granted Metro the ability to deny ads on buses and trains that are ‘issue-oriented,’ we find it hypocritical for (Metro General Manager) Mr. Wiedefeld to make these unprecedented special accommodations for a hate group.”

FOX 5 asked Metro about its plans for the weekend of Aug. 11 and 12, but a spokesperson said in a statement that while many of the details are security sensitive, nothing has been finalized.

Metro Transit Police is working with D.C. police to try to keep everyone safe.

“It certainly puts the workers at risk, but again I can’t stress enough this is unprecedented,” said union spokesperson David Stephen. “Here we are in Washington D.C., the home of the president of the United States. But for some reason, we need a chartered train for this group which very frankly is a hate group, and that is a problem in itself. It creates an unsafe environment for everyone that they are around.”

This year’s rally, spearheaded by white nationalist Jason Kessler, is being organized by the same group behind the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

The Washington Post is also on the story:

Metro is considering providing separate trains for participants of the “Unite the Right” white-nationalist rally Aug. 12, board chairman Jack Evans said Friday.

Evans said the move would be an effort to prevent violence between rally participants and counterprotesters.

“We haven’t made any decisions about anything,” Evans said about conversations he has had with Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham. “We’re just trying to come up with potential solutions on how to keep everybody safe.”

The event is being organized by the white supremacist group behind last summer’s rally in Charlottesville that led to protests, violent clashes and the death of a counterprotester. In addition, two Virginia state troopers conducting surveillance of the event were killed when their helicopter crashed.

The permit request submitted by organizers bills this month’s event as a “white civil rights” rally in Lafayette Square “protesting civil rights abuse in Charlottesville.”

Evans, who is also a Democratic D.C. Council member representing Ward 2, said officials are concerned that tensions resulting from the event could result in physical clashes between rally attendees and those who could come out in droves to protest their presence.

Among the potential scenarios to help head off violence, Evans said: Rally participants could gather at East Falls Church Metro station, board special cars on a train to Foggy Bottom and then receive a police escort to the rally.

Evans said he and Wiedefeld acknowledge the logistical difficulties of such a plan. How would they be able to enforce a separation between “Unite the Right” participants and counterprotesters? What happens if members of the union representing train operators and station managers refuse to operate a train designated for white supremacists?

And perhaps most important, what kind of precedent would this set for future protests and political events in the District that cause tension and pose a threat of violence?

“We’re not trying to give anyone special treatment,” Evans said. “We’re just trying to avoid scuffles and things of that nature.”

Evans said officials also are considering simply allowing anyone to use any train they want, and increase the police presence on the trains.

“Frankly, we don’t know who’s coming, how many people we’re expecting for this thing, and whether it’s actually going to happen at all,” Evans said. “We’re trying to prepare.”

On some level, I can understand the logic behind the idea of segregating the protesters from the general population that would be riding Metro next Saturday and Sunday, and especially the idea of keeping the rally participants and counter-protesters as far apart as possible, especially given what happened a year ago in Virginia. With the legacy of that march still fresh in people’s minds, the potential for clashes between rally participants and counter-protesters is rather obvious, and this risk would be substantially increased if the two groups ended up taking the same Metro cars to the rally next Sunday.  Add into that the D.C. residents and tourists who will also be using the system next Sunday, and the possibility of deliberate or accidental violence resulting even from a misunderstanding is fairly high, and the prospect of something happening while the trains are traveling underground just adds to the danger, and the difficulties that police would have in quelling it should it get out control.

That being said, there’s something utterly offensive about the idea of these Klansmen and others being given private Metro cars to get to their hate rally. Like many participants in protests before them, there’s nothing preventing them from driving into the city on their own or chartering buses to get to the rally location from outside the city. This kind of a special privilege, though, seems way over the top and it’s likely that WMATA is going to fact significant blowback if they actually go forward with this plan. Additionally, as the Post notes, giving rally participants this kind of special treatment would arguably create a precedent that would pose serious logistical problems for WMATA officials in the future should the organizers of any of the other numerous rallies and protests that take place in the city demand equal treatment for themselves. Metro officials are right to be thinking about ways to minimize the potential for violence next Sunday, but this is not the way to go about it.

Update:  I’ve posted an update in a new post. Metro is now saying that it has scrapped any consideration of plans for private rail cars for rally participants.

FILED UNDER: Race and Politics, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Tony W says:

    So the racist protesters will get a “Whites Only” car?

    It’s difficult to see the problem here.


  2. This makes a lot of sense. Squishing a bunch of worked up bigots in subway cars filled with the multicultural mix of regular New Yorkers seems like a pretty stupid idea, if it can be avoided.

  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    I think the big piece of information I need here is if this is something that’s been done in the past for other large events or protests, or if this is something unique to this particular event.

  4. @Stormy Dragon:

    It is not uncommon for Metro to add extra cars or lengthen operating hours to account for large protests or events, but in time since I moved to the area in the early 90s I’ve never heard of anything like this.

  5. Kathy says:

    If there’s a group that warrants such special treatment, this one isn’t it.

  6. JohnMcC says:

    How kind and helpful of the local Fox affiliate to provide the snippet that 80% of the members of the union are ‘people of color’. In other words, they are ‘people of DC’.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    Three cars? How big is a metro car? This sounds like another RW show of strength with scores of participants.

    However, violence against them is unconscionable. Better to line the parade route or surround the rally and point and laugh.

  8. CSK says:


    Yeah. If it’s one train, one time with only three cars reserved for this crew, D.C. can’t be expecting great vast hordes to be turning out for this hate fest.

  9. Tyrell says:

    Here’s the deal: the police explain the rules. Any person participating either way must fill out a form, go through a background check, go through metal detectors, and sign a liability form for damages and litter. If they misbehave, so much as throwing gum on the sidewalk they get locked up on the spot. Have a judge and lock up trailer. No signs. Extra police and National Guard on duty. The best policy would be home town folks only. No outsiders coming in and creating a riot like has happened in other places.

  10. Mister Bluster says:

    Call it the Supreme Leader Kim Jong Trump Express. Headed nonstop straight for Hell!

  11. James Pearce says:

    The immature, emotional part of me is all “Nut-uh, no way.”

    But the rational part of me is persuaded by the safety arguments. These are not non-violent protesters. They’re provocateurs. And I have no confidence that the Resistance will be able to resist being provoked.

  12. Mister Bluster says:

    Any person participating either way must fill out a form, go through a background check, go through metal detectors, and sign a liability form for damages and litter.

    Tyrell YOU need to be on the first streetcar full of honkies to leave the station. You must lay it out to them. I AM SURE that they will all comply with your Rules of Engagement as you have so passionately laid them out in your post.
    Be sure to take a clipboard but don’t be surprised if anyone tells you to shove your forms where the sun don’t shine!

  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Gee, I dunno. As I put on my white supremacist version of my sociopathy, I’m not particularly amenable to being in private cars. I keep thinking that it’s too easy to disconnect both engines and leave the cars mid route. Three RPGs later…

  14. MarkedMan says:

    I strongly suspect the Trump administration is pressuring DC to provide these special accommodation to the racists. I hope to god some DC employee leaks who it is. My suspicion is that it is, at least indirectly, Kelly.

  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    Putting Nazis on trains and taking them somewhere, how apropos.

  16. Tyrell says:

    @Mister Bluster: For one thing tbe mayor, police chief, and judge must stand as one and tell these people that there will be no foolishness. The first rock thrown and it’s over – everyone packs it up and goes home.
    There should be a time limit of two hours for this, then everyone goes home. The area for use should designated, such as a parking lot or ball field, not the public streets. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent.
    The police and mayors need to take their cities back.
    “You can go home pig or pork” (Marshall Dillon, “Gunsmoke”
    “you are surrounded… give yourself up!”
    (“Indiana Wants Me” R. Dean Taylor)

  17. Mr. Prosser says:

    @James Pearce: Fie on them, they can charter buses.

  18. dazedandconfused says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Only if they are a three-car caboose…

  19. James Pearce says:

    @Mr. Prosser: They should also be allowed to ride the MTA like anyone else, but since we’re in this weird illiberal moment of mob rule, we have to give them their own special cars.

    This is where a little skepticism of protest comes in handy. What is everyone so afraid of? Let the KKK march and don’t go. It’ll be three hundred white dudes chanting to themselves.

    But that’s not what it’s going to be, is it? It’ll be three hundred white dudes, a bunch of lefty protesters, and all the alt-right thugs (pumped UP, too) come out to beat them. Of course the MTA is stressed out.

  20. Mister Bluster says:

    The area for use should (be) designated, such as a parking lot or ball field, not the public streets.

    I have contended in the past that if Cities are going to name community lands for demonstrations and public assemblies that will devolve into anarchy that the sludge field next to the sewage treatment plant be called Free Speech Park where all can gather and make known their views!
    In the meantime the rest of us be sure to visit the throne while the party is is going down.
    Don’t forget to flush twice.

    Hey so my name is called Disturbance
    I’ll shout and scream
    I’ll kill the king, I’ll rail at all his servants

    Street Fighting Man
    Richards / Jagger

  21. JohnMcC says:

    Just read a TPM article (‘Portland Prepares for Violent Clashes…’) which brought me to wonder — as our wonderful friend Tyrell did above, I see: What is the policy on concealed weapons at a demonstration on the Mall?

    Is the fire insurance paid up on the Reichstag?

  22. JKB says:

    @Tyrell: The best policy would be home town folks only. No outsiders coming in and creating a riot like has happened in other places.

    Exactly how would that work in the nation’s capital?

    But you do realize that DC and federal prosecutors dropped all the charges against actual rioters fro the inauguration where cars were burnt and stores destroyed? Perhaps they will only go after one side, but then …

    In any case, given the publicity from a year ago, we can safely say that no “fine people” will be showing up on either side by not realizing the true agenda of the sides.

    I suspect the tactic of the police directing protestors into a gauntlet of counter-protestors is falling out of favor given the recent ruling on the San Jose lawsuit that police do not have qualified immunity so the suit can continue, and, of course, the fact the tactic in Charlottesville while not directly linked did create the atmosphere where a woman was killed.

  23. I’ve posted an update in a new post.

    Metro is now saying that it has scrapped any consideration of plans for private rail cars for rally participants.

  24. Tyrell says:

    “dropped the charges” right there is the problem. It should have been prison – like five years or so. You have charges of arson, destroying public – private property, endangerment. If it was you or me they would have thrown the book at us.

  25. Mister Bluster says:

    …did create the atmosphere where a woman was killed.

    You mean like this…

    “She goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before. I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. Right? Right?” Trump said during a campaign rally here as the crowd cheered the idea. “I think they should disarm immediately. What do you think? Yes? Yes. Yeah. Take their guns away. She doesn’t want guns. … Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay? It would be very dangerous.”
    Supreme Leader and Chairman of the Republican Sex Workers Party Kim Jong Trump

    Remember JKB he wants YOU to “sit up straight at attention” like the free people of the Republic of North Korea do in abject fear!

  26. Timothy Watson says:

    @JKB: Uh, actually the charges were thrown out because the police department just arrested everybody in the whole block, including reporters, with no evidence that any specific person had done a damn thing.

  27. Tyrell says:

    There were plenty of video cameras and witnesses. There was enough information to arrest people and get a conviction. The reporters themselves were witnesses. The police dropped it on this one. And I wonder why that was?
    Someone needs to be held accountable.