In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, right-wing groups have cancelled rallies around the country. But that hasn’t stopped the counter-protesters from showing up.
In New York, dozens of people took part in a rally outside Google’s corporate campus. Right-wing organisers had intended to protest there in defence of a Google employee who was fired after writing a memo criticising the company’s diversity policy. The protest organisers, however, cancelled the rally days before, citing “alt left terrorist threats”.
Instead, more than 50 demonstrators filled the streets outside Google on Saturday, carrying signs reading “Racism is not patriotism” and “White nationalism is terrorism”.
Kia Niambi, one of the protest organisers, said the protest was motivated in part by the white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville the weekend before.
“I know that people have a lot of the same mindset, but you think that no one else thinks like you," she explained.
“So you need to create a platform that everyone can come together on, so that we can all speak out and make sure that people know that this is not ok, and that we are going to change it.”
She added that the message remained the same whether the right-wing protesters turned out or not.
“It’s not about them,” she said. “We still have a message that we want to put out there. And we need everyone to know that this is not going to fly.”
The protest, organised by three young women of colour, drew a large, diverse crowd to Manhattan’s wealthy, Chelsea neighbourhood. One family travelled from the neighbouring borough of Queens with mother, father, and daughter in tow.
The mother, Angela Powers, said she had marched for civil rights in Queens in the 1960s.
“I think it’s been a lot of years and not enough change since I was 25,” she said, looking at her daughter, Danielle. “Now I have a 25-year-old. I thought we would be further.”
That was a common sentiment at the rally, where protesters chanted, among other things: “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.”
The cheers were a stark contrast from those that had rang out in Charlottesville the week before, where tiki-torch bearing marchers chanted about “blood and soil”.
Matthew Dominguez, a Brooklyn resident, said those very chants had shocked him into action today.
“In this day and age, the mere fact that I’m standing in New York City having to protest Nazis, the fact that I have to be protesting white supremacy – that there's even this feeling that this fringe group of white supremacists even matters – is so upsetting,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Boston, conservative protesters were vastly outnumbered by counter-protesters at their "free speech" rally in Boston Common. According to police, between 15,000 and 20,000 counter-protesters turned out, compared to a few dozen rally participants.
President Donald Trump condemned the counter-protesters in a tweet, calling them "anti-police agitators". (He later appeared to backtrack, adding that "many" of the protesters were "speaking out against bigotry and hate".)
In New York, however, protesters extolled the need for peaceful protest.
"I feel like we all need to have a voice and say that what's going on isn’t right," said Catherine, a Queens resident and DREAMer – the beneficiary of an Obama-era policy that allowed undocumented minors to stay in the country.
"If we don’t [speak out] then it’s going to get worse, and we can’t let it get worse," she added. "That’s what happened in Nazi Germany. People didn’t have a voice, and look where that led them."