Officials on alert as activists plan two days of Washington protests

WASHINGTON - The apolitical fireworks fest that typically marks Independence Day in the District of Columbia will be upended this week by protests that include a faceoff between activist groups two days after President Donald Trump addresses the nation from the Lincoln Memorial.

Demonstrations will begin Thursday with a flag burning, a senior citizens' singalong and the unveiling of "Baby Trump," a scowling, orange-faced balloon best known for its flights over London protests.


Demonstrations will begin Thursday with a flag burning, a senior citizens' singalong and the unveiling of "Baby Trump," a scowling, orange-faced balloon best known for its flights over London protests.

They will continue into Saturday as several right-wing demonstrators, including members of the Western-chauvinist Proud Boys group, host a rally in Freedom Plaza - met by a coalition of progressive groups to show the District is "no place for white supremacists," organizers of the All Out D.C. counterprotest said.

It will drastically change the look and feel of a weekend typically memorable more for its hot, sticky weather than for political flare-ups.

Sgt. Eduardo Delgado, a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police, which has jurisdiction over the Nationals Mall and Freedom Plaza, the site of Saturday's right-wing "Demand Free Speech" rally, said the department's civil disobedience unit has been activated for Thursday and Saturday but won't be deployed unless needed.

"We'll have people in different locations and watching," he said. "We prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

District residents planning to protest the Saturday event said they planned to do the same.

"No one in Antifa or Black Lives Matter or any of the different affinity groups are looking to instigate something. We are looking to uplift and protect our community as one," said Carlos Chavarría, an All Out D.C. organizer. "But we are prepared for them to try to start a fight with us, to come to our action and try to instigate something."

Organizers of the rally didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Trump's speech and add-ons such as a fighter jet flyover and a possible display of military tanks already mean extra security Thursday on the National Mall.

Hundreds are expected to oppose the president's presence, with others likely to turn up Saturday to counter an event that features speakers such as Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and embattled former Trump adviser Roger Stone.

Of the two days of protests, law enforcement officials appear more concerned about Saturday.

Several right-wing Internet personalities are listed as speakers on the event's website, including GOP political operative Jacob Wohl, anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer, far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and Pizzagate conspiracist Jack Posobiec.



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