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Sunday’s pathetic white supremacist rally cost D.C. $2.6 million

Each attendee cost the city $87,000 — more than double the amount spent per homeless person last year.

Security officials stand guard as a few white supremacists rally in D.C. (CREDIT: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Security officials stand guard as a few white supremacists rally in D.C. (CREDIT: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Just when you thought last weekend’s gathering of white supremacists couldn’t make D.C. residents more infuriated, the city has shown up with the tab.

According to The Washingtonian, Jason Kessler’s sparsely-attended “Unite the Right 2” rally cost the city $2.6 million, accounting for road closures, cleanup, and the 1,000-plus law enforcement officers who were on hand to keep the peace over the weekend.

If one assumes there were roughly 30 far-right demonstrators at the rally — which is a generous assumption — it would mean the district spent nearly $87,000 per attendee. In comparison, Washington, D.C. spent an average of $34,500 per homeless person in 2017. Break it down, and the money spent on Kessler would be enough to support 75 homeless people for an entire year.

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After the violence that marred last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, authorities in D.C. took no chances. Nearly half a dozen law enforcement agencies — D.C. Police, U.S. Park Police, Secret Service, Federal Protective Service, and the U.S. Marshal Service — were all involved in policing the event. More than 100 officers were present at the Foggy Bottom Metro station alone, there to escort Kessler and his supporters to Lafayette Square. Air support, riot police, SWAT, and mounted officers were also all on hand if the situation escalated, which it thankfully didn’t.

Officers on the ground told ThinkProgress reporters that they were not given an end time, and that the expectation was that they would be on duty for up to 20 hours. One also expressed bemusement upon learning that the rally they were supposed to be protecting contained barely two dozen far-right followers.

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But it wasn’t just police expenses — downtown D.C. took an economic hit thanks to the rally as well. According to the Washington Post, Uber and Lyft drivers warned each other to stay away from the affected area on the off chance they would have to deal with a white nationalist passenger. The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington also sent out legal information, prior to the rally, on how and why restaurant owners could refuse service to white nationalists. Other restaurants decided to close early, so as to protect workers and regular customers.

All in all, however, the day was, gratefully, as far-removed from the chaos of last year’s Unite the Right rally as possible. Police confirmed at the end of the day to ThinkProgress that there’d been no arrests, and while there was hand-wringing about supposedly “violent” antifa counter-protesters, the situation on the ground was much more benign. The most violence this reporter witnessed was three shopping carts being turned over.