Sunday's Unite the Right II rally in Washington, D.C., may have been sparsely attended by white nationalists, but it still cost the city at least $2.6 million.
The core Unite the Right group consisted of about two dozen people, although thousands showed up in response, including plenty of anti-fascist (antifa) and Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters. All those counterprotesters made for a chaotic scene outside the White House. Unsurprisingly, there was a huge police presence in Lafayette Square, where the rally was held, and the surrounding area. Cops guarded the white nationalist protesters wherever they went, and the D.C. Metro even set aside a special train car for them.
According to The Washington Post, the Metropolitan Police Department ran up a bill of $2.5 million on staffing and overtime costs for the event. The remainder of the cost was attributed to other city agencies, including Public Works, Fire and Emergency Medical Services, and Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Unite the Right II was a sequel to last year's Unite the Right event in Charlottesville, Virginia, where violent clashes broke out and one counterprotester was killed. In an attempt to prevent a repeat of Charlottesville, D.C. authorities pulled out all the stops. Now the city is hoping it won't have to pay the $2.6 million out of its own pocket. The Post reports:
The city plans to ask the federal government to reimburse those costs. Congress budgeted $13 million this year for a fund to help the District pay for responses to large-scale protests and events, which are common in the nation's capital but have become more frequent during the Trump administration.
It's worth noting that $2.6 million is only an early estimate, according to Anu Rangappa, a spokesperson for D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser. Plus that figure doesn't take into account what other police departments—including Virginia State Police, Fairfax police, and U.S. Park Police—had to spend. It's likely the actual cost will be higher.
Some people seemed to think the massive response only validated the white nationalists. "I really think we should just ignore them," counterprotester Glen Hellman told Reason outside the Vienna Metro station on Sunday morning, where Unite the Right rally participants boarded a subway headed into downtown D.C. "We're validating them, and that is a problem," he added, describing himself as "torn" over whether to ignore the rally or protest it
The rally's tiny size did not stop antifa protesters from getting all riled up. Decked out in black with their faces covered, they screamed chants like, "Any time, any place, punch a Nazi in the face."