President Trump's supporters rallied near the Washington Monument. Insane Clown Posse fans marched by the Lincoln Memorial. Counterprotesters gathered at Farragut Square, while other liberal protesters were in front of the White House. Nearby were 5K races, weddings and a Latin American Fiesta parade — all sharing space this past Saturday around the Mall.
The convergence of more than 30 events and thousands of people on the same day in the nation's capital resulted in no arrests or notable incidents, police said.
D.C. officials say it is the sign of a successful day — a day for which law enforcement spent months preparing to ensure safety. While last month's deadly protest in Charlottesville highlighted what critics called lapses in law enforcement, officials in the nation's capital say the smoothness of last weekend's events shows how Washington is uniquely qualified to handle multiple simultaneous rallies, including those with competing political ideologies.
Brian Baker, interim director of the city's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said officials treated Saturday as they would any major-event day in the nation's capital, such as Memorial Day, July 4 or a presidential inauguration. The Mall looked like an open-air barricaded city with U.S. Park Police officers in large numbers and D.C. police officers in cars and on foot, motorcycles, bicycles and horses.
On some sections of the Mall, the security presence appeared to dwarf the number of people participating in activities.
Local officials had requested that the D.C. National Guard assist with security. The Guard provided dump trucks that blocked nearly every street adjacent to the Mall to restrict vehicular access to areas with large numbers of pedestrians. D.C.'s Department of Public Works also provided trucks — their presence seemingly becoming the new normal around the Mall when events draw large crowds.
"We know a major threat worldwide when you have these big events is people using cars as weapons," Baker said.
Police broke up minor scuffles at the site of the Mother of All Rallies, a pro-Trump event, before they could escalate. The rally drew only a few hundred people, rather than the 5,000 that its National Park Service permit allowed. On top of that, it did not appear that protesters were looking for a fight. Counterprotesters stuck mostly to Farragut Square and marched to the White House, not the Washington Monument.
Peter Boykin, who attended the Mother of All Rallies and is president of the Gays for Trump group, said before the event that he did not expect D.C. officials to allow mayhem.
"In Washington, D.C., police do their jobs, so I'm not worried about major fights with outside groups," he said.
While Washington has the resources to manage larger-scale events, the city has run into controversy for its handling of past demonstrations.
In 2002, police arrested nearly 400 largely peaceful protesters at Pershing Park, leading to lawsuits and costs to the District upward of $11 million. Police surrounded the park and ordered demonstrators to leave, but officers gave them no way to move out.
At Trump's inauguration in January, police arrested more than 200 people in downtown Washington during a violent and destructive demonstration against Trump's presidency. The American Civil Liberties Union sued D.C. police, accusing authorities of arresting innocent people and detaining them for up to 16 hours without access to food, water and bathroom facilities.
The District's deputy mayor for public safety said the city has earned its reputation of being able to handle competing events. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and Police Chief Peter Newsham meet weekly and had flagged Saturday's events several months ago. Police also scoured social media and websites for clues about who would attend and what their plans would be.
"We have organizations in D.C. on the local and federal side that are accustomed to very busy weekends with a lot of events, and the muscle memory to responding to it gets reinforced on a regular basis, and it's strongest on the mid-level ranks who are always out there," said Kevin Donahue, the deputy mayor for public safety.
He said officials were in frequent contact with permit-holders to determine how many people they expected and the messages of their events. Officials tried to glean lessons from Charlottesville, Donahue said, although they would have communicated with rally organizers even if the violence last month in Charlottesville had not occurred.
"We talked to organizers of permitted and unpermitted events and shared our expectations and engendered a sense of safety," he said.
D.C. Assistant Police Chief Jeffery Carroll, who manages the department's Homeland Security Bureau, said one complicated aspect of a protest-filled weekend is resource allocation. In addition to events on the Mall, police also had to patrol the popular H Street Festival in Northeast, which attracted thousands of people.
Police also must take into account medical problems that may arise, such as dehydration, while also having resources available for standard 911 calls.
"We made no arrests, and our goal is to make no arrests. We want to manage the crowds and have safe events," Carroll said. "That's a good result for us."
The city probably will be reimbursed by the federal government for some security costs incurred Saturday. In 2016, the federal government reimbursed the District $13.7 million for its role in providing security at protests and other events.