The “Unite the Right 2” rally is being billed as a “white civil rights rally” meant to protest “civil rights abuse in Charlottesville.”
That event included white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Kessler and a small group of white nationalists arrived at Washington’s Foggy Bottom subway station around 3 p.m., where they were met with jeers from a crowd of protesters who had surrounded the entrance to the station.
Shouts of “Go home!” and “You’re not welcome here!” greeted Kessler and his band of supporters as they left the station.
Police officers escorted the group as they began making their way east towards Lafayette Square Park, where a crowd of counterprotesters have been amassing since 1 p.m. local time.
Kessler’s group was early. The white nationalists were expected to meet at the Foggy Bottom station at 5 p.m. ET before marching to Lafayette Square park, across the street from the White House, according to the permit application.
Sunday’s demonstrations and the opposing rallies are taking place in an atmosphere of heightened racial tension.
This week, NFL players in the first preseason games resumed their protests over police brutality against blacks by raising their fists, kneeling or sitting out during the National Anthem.
Counterprotesters host a number of opposing rallies
Large crowds of counterprotesters had gathered by early afternoon in DC’s Freedom Plaza, where they held a “United Against Hate” demonstration featuring a series of guest speakers.
“Our message is to let everyone know we support each other,” said Maurice Cook, a co-organizer for the March for Racial Justice, which organized the counterprotest. Attendees, he said, may express themselves in “whichever way you feel comfortable in expressing your civil liberties.”
Kaitlin Moore, 28, of Frederick, Maryland, told CNN she was participating in counterprotests in Lafayette Park to “show this is not okay.”
She said she felt it was important to show up after she saw what happened in Charlottesville last year.
“This is not normal,” Moore said. “We won’t tolerate bigotry and hate in the United States.”
In the past, similar far-right demonstrations have been dwarfed by counterprotests.
Trump condemns ‘all types of racism’
“We must come together as a nation,” he wrote. “I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”
Heyer’s mother: ‘We have got to fix this’
On Sunday morning, as Washington prepared for potential crowds of white nationalists, a crowd made up of leftist and anti-racist demonstrators gathered in Charlottesville and made their way to the site of Heyer’s death, where some had paid their respects and used chalk to scrawl messages of remembrance in the street and on the walls of nearby buildings.
There they sang spirituals and held a moment of silence. But like protesters on the campus of the University of Virginia Saturday night, many expressed antagonism towards police, some of whom were dressed in riot gear and who had a large presence throughout the city to prevent any outbreak of violence.
“There’s a profound difference in this year and last year and that is the heavy police presence,” said Lisa Woolfork, an associate professor of English at the University of Virginia and a local organizer with Black Lives Matter.
Some people might be comforted by the police, Woolfork continued. “But for folks like me, black and brown folks, folks in Black Lives Matter, we don’t equate a heavy police presence with safety, so we see this as a perceived risk and increasing the possible harm that might occur to us.”
Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, visited the site where her daughter was killed, surrounded by supporters and journalists. She turned to the crowd, and over the hum of a helicopter circling overhead, spoke out against the racial tension she sees in America.
“We have a huge racial problem in our city and our country,” Bro said. “We have got to fix this, or we’ll be right back here in no time.”
“The world went crazy when Heather lost her life, and that’s not fair, because so many mothers lose their children every day, and we have to fix that. I don’t want other mothers to be in my spot,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion. “I don’t want other mothers to go through this.”
The hearing was part of his lawsuit against Charlottesville after it denied his permit application on the grounds it would “present a danger to public safety.”
CNN’s Donald Judd, Mallory Simon, Holly Yan, Kaylee Hartung, Emanuella Grinberg, Konstantin Toropin, Brian Todd, Laura Robinson and Sara Sidner contributed to this report.