It was a gratifying reaffirmation of American values when thousands of protesters turned out Sunday to denounce the few dozen white-nationalist bigots who rallied across from the White House on the anniversary of last year’s mayhem in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was also, from start to finish, a victory for smart policing, the absence of which enabled the violence in Charlottesville.
The smart policing Sunday featured, first and foremost, minimizing the possibility of violence by separating Jason Kessler, the white-supremacist Unite the Right organizer, and his little band from those who turned out to rally against them. When it comes to keeping order in large public events, separating antagonists is Rule No. 1 of good police work.
On Sunday, that meant separating Mr. Kessler’s gang from virtually everyone else, both in and around Lafayette Park, where they congregated, and below ground, on Metro, which conveyed them to the event. The idea, and the optics, of providing white supremacists with what amounted to special accommodations on the subway was nauseating to some, including Metro’s biggest employees union and a few local elected officials. But the alternative - the potential for brawls on crowded subway cars and platforms - was a lot worse.
Not infrequently, it takes gritted teeth and a strong stomach to effectuate the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.
On Sunday, that meant, among other things, the expenditure of sizable amounts of taxpayer dollars to provide uniformed and plainclothes officers, many working overtime, to escort and protect a small number of people with detestable views.
Two members of the D.C. Council objected to that. Charles Allen, D, tweeted that furnishing hate groups with their own rail car - in fact, they shared it with police and journalists - was “unbelievably wrong & disgraceful.”
D.C. police made the right call. No one was hurt, and the day’s lasting impression was of a pathetic few apostles of hatred dwarfed by voices that rejected their toxic views.