While Donald Trump jetted away from Washington DC for a weekend retreat in New Jersey, hundreds of his supporters descended on the city to demand protection for "traditional American culture”.
Protesters came from around the country for the so-called "Mother of All Rallies" (MOAR) – a pro-Trump, right-wing protest that organisers billed as the “Woodstock of American Rallies”.
“MOAR will send a message to the world that the voices of mainstream Americans must be heard,” organisers wrote on the MOAR website. “We are coming together to send a direct message to Congress, the media and the world that we stand united not divided to protect and preserve American Culture.”
On Facebook, organisers said they hoped to rally one million people to DC in support of their cause. Washington Metropolitan police said they expected 1,800 people. Journalists on the ground estimated the crowd size at 1,000.
Right-wing militia groups, such as the Three Percenters, Proud Boys, and the American Guard, made up a large portion of the protest. The American Guard advocates for “the preservation of western culture", while the Proud Boys describe themselves as “Western chauvinists”. The Three Percenters advocate for an armed resistance to government overreach.
Many attendees wore red "Make America Great Again" baseball hats, while others carried flags for "Kekistan" – a fictional country that some internet-centric right-wing activists claim as their homeland. An American-flag-festooned "Trump truck" pulled a trailer with a “Trump MOAR” sign on it across the National Mall.
The MOAR website states that "all people, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, age or political affiliation” were invited to the rally.
Before the protest, however, Gays for Trump president Peter Boykin told the Washington Post he would give a speech at the event condemning “Sharia law, transgender men and women in the military and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program".
Other speakers included Marco Gutierrez, the co-founder of Latinos For Trump, and Hamody Jasim, the author of The Terrorist Whisperer.
The event marked one of the first far-right rallies since the white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, where dozens of people were injured and one was killed. In the wake of that rally, dozens of right-wing protests were cancelled, citing alleged threats from left-wing groups. Still others were dwarfed by crowds of counter-protesters who showed up.
Organisers for MOAR seemed attuned to the threat of counter-protestors, writing on their website that “anyone who would protest this rally is protesting America”. One speaker, Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson, lashed out at left-wing counter-protesters known as "Antifa", claiming they were “beating up grandmas".
According to reporters on the ground, however, the rally generated very little public push-back. A few counter-protesters turned up to debate the rally participants, mocking the relatively small size of the crowd.
One man was photographed standing outside of the crowd, holding a sign in honour of a counter-protester who was killed in Charlottesville.
“Heather Heyer, a true American patriot,” the sign read.
As the rally wound down, some participants said they were heading over to a protest nearby: a gathering of "horrorcore" rap fans who call themselves "juggalos". The juggalos are superfans of the rap duo Insane Clown Posse, identifiable by their black-and-white, clown-like face makeup.
The juggalos gathered outside the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday to protest the FBI’s classification of their group as a "loosely organised hybrid gang”. The Justice Department has placed the juggalos in the same group as overtly violent gangs like the Bloods and the Crips – a classification the fans dispute.
According to the National Park Service, some 3,000 people were expected to attend the rally on Saturday – almost double the size of the MOAR.