The Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (Metro) is considering providing separate trains for participants of a white nationalist rally on August 12, the Washington Post reports. But the agency may be short-staffed that day; its largest transit union has implied that members won’t be showing up.
The “Unite the Right” rally is being organized by the white supremacist group behind the 2017 Charlottesville demonstration of the same name. Participants at that rally beat 20-year-old Deandre Harris and murdered counterprotester Heather Heyer. Speakers at this year’s event include neo-Nazi Patrick Little, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and “pro-white” town manager Tom Kawczynski, according to documents released by the National Park Service and reported on by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Jack Evans, Metro board chair, has said that the separate trains would be supplied in an effort to prevent violence between rally participants and counter-protestors.
“We haven’t made any decisions about anything,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “We’re just trying to come up with potential solutions on how to keep everybody safe.”
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 president Jackie Jeter released the following statement, according to the region’s ABC News affiliate:
Local 689 is proud to provide transit to everyone for the many events we have in D.C. including the March of Life, the Women’s March and Black Lives Matters. We draw the line at giving special accommodation to hate groups and hate speech, especially considering that the courts granted Metro the ability to deny ads on buses and trains that are ‘issue-oriented,’ we find it hypocritical for Mr. Wiedefeld to make these unprecedented special accommodations for a hate group.
ATU Local 689 has also pointed out that more than 80 percent of its members are people of color, according to the station.
Metro enacted rules on what can (and can’t) be displayed on the sides of buses and inside trains in response to a string of anti-Muslim ads, as Next City has covered. Its policy against “issue-oriented ads” was challenged by the ACLU last year; the organization claimed Metro’s practice was overly broad and deeply selective.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.