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DC on high alert for violence as the city prepares for 'Unite the Right' rally

D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said that local law enforcement is fully prepared to handle whatever happens this weekend.

WASHINGTON -- As the weekend approached, D.C. officials prepared for the "Unite the Right 2" rally that's coming to Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of a violent rally in Charlottesville, Va. where one woman died and 19 others were injured.

The violence in Charlottesville began once rally participants and counter-protesters clashed and a man drove a car into a group of counter-protesters.

DC Mayor Muriel Boswer and DC Police Chief Pete Newsham said they city is preparing to ensure everyone's safety during this year's rally that's scheduled to happened on Sunday, Aug. 12.

Charlottesville rally

The rally in Charlottesville, known as Unite the Right, was organized to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. During this time, removal of Confederate statutes were taking place across the country.

The rally trailed two other notable protests that took place in Charlottesville last summer. Richard Spencer, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, led a group of torch-carrying protesters to the Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park in May 2017. In July 2017, members of a Ku Klux Klan chapter and counter-protesters gathered at a park for a "loud and angry," but nonviolent protest.

RELATED: 'Unite the Right' comes to DC 1 year after rally turns deadly in Charlottesville

During the Unite the Right rally on Aug. 12, 2017, rally participants included neo-Nazi and alt-right members. Rally participants carried rifles, shields, neo-Nazi paraphernalia, Confederate battle flags and reportedly chanted Nazi slogans.

Both rally participants and counter-protesters gathered in Emancipation Park where the groups clashed and the rally turned violent.

The morning of Aug. 12, 2017, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency due to the rally's violence.

A few hours later, police say 21-year-old rally participant James Alex Fields, Jr. drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

Fields was indicted for the death of Heyer and charged with 30 hate crimes. His trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 26, 2017.

Two Virginia State Police officers also died in a helicopter crash while assisting police activity related the the rally. The pilot, 48-year-old Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian, and 40-year-old Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, died at the scene.

Washington, D.C. rally

The man behind the Unite the Right rally, Jason Kessler, applied for a permit to gather in Charlottesville on the anniversary of the first Unite the Right rally, but was denied. His application for a permit in D.C. was approved for a march from Foggy Bottom Metro station to a demonstration at Lafayette Park outside the White House.

Police are expecting people with the Unite the Right group to travel from the Vienna Metro Station to Foggy Bottom and then head to Lafayette Square. Officers will be along that route, but Chief Newsham said that route could change.

RELATED: How do rally and march permits like Unite the Right get approved?

D.C. is expecting hundreds of white nationalists for a Unite the Right rally outside the White House. Multiple counter-protests are also scheduled to take place in the area. D.C. police said they will do everything they can to keep the groups separated.

In a news conference on Thursday, D.C. police said the Unite the Right rally is something they have been planning for months.

Chief Newsham said the main goal is to make sure property does not get damaged and people do not get hurt.

Guns are banned at this year's rally, even for people that have a legal permit.

Mayor Bowser made it clear during the news conference that hate is not what the District is about. She activated the city's Emergency Operations Center, giving law enforcement groups the green light to deploy any and all of the resources needed to keep the city safe.

Chief Newsham said that local law enforcement is fully prepared to handle whatever happens this weekend. He said they've taken lessons from what happened a year ago in Charlottesville, Va.

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