WASHINGTON, D.C.—A group of white supremacists stormed through downtown Washington, D.C. on Saturday evening, bearing American flags and mildly menacing plastic shields while marching to the beat of a snare drum down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. But after chanting aggressively about their plans to “reclaim America,” their intended show of force stalled spectacularly when they lost their ride.
While the group had marched through the city with threatening chants about their plan to “reclaim America,” by the end of the night it was not even clear how they intended to reclaim their U-Haul.
The rally by more than 100 members of the “Patriot Front” group, held just blocks from the White House, sparked fear among many bystanders and immediately attracted the attention of law enforcement, who shadowed the group to apparently prevent any clashes from erupting.
Members wore a uniform: white gators, sunglasses, blue jackets, khaki pants, and brown boots and hats. Some donned plastic shinguards, seeming to anticipate violence.
As Patriot Front’s leader Thomas Rousseau spoke beside the Capitol reflecting pool, bystanders booed. Asked about the reason for the march, Rousseau said, “Our demonstrations are an exhibition of our unified capability to organize, to show our strength—not as brawlers or public nuisances, but as men capable of illustrating a message and seeking an America that more closely resembles the interests of its true people.”
At the end of the night, the march ended in a logistical anti-climax. No arrests were made at the Arlington Memorial Bridge, where the it wound down, and D.C. police Lt. Jason Bagshaw told The Daily Beast that the cops, some in riot gear, were on the scene simply “waiting for people to leave.”
That is when it became clear that more than two dozen members of the white supremacist group could not leave, as they were apparently stranded. Members of the group had waited in a one-way roundabout to depart in one of the U-Hauls they had used to transport themselves for the rally. But the large rented moving van could not fit them all, so many of them were forced to wait in 45-degree darkness as the bulky orange vehicle made multiple trips over the course of nearly three hours.
As the group finally departed, one police officer yelled “Who’s shield is that?” after a member apparently left his plastic shield behind.
Patriot Front was once known as Vanguard America but changed its name after a man affiliated with the group murdered a woman at the notorious Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Members with military experience often train each other in basic tactics ranging from a protest gear list (Marine Corps-issued combat boots and decontaminate wipes) to hand-to-hand combat. Other white nationalists like Richard Spencer have hired the group for their own security.