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D.C. officials, union criticize decision to use Metro to transport Jason Kessler and white supremacists to Unite the Right rally

About 30 people attended the “Unite the Right 2” rally in D.C. on Aug 12. Hundreds of counterprotesters marched and some fought with police. (Video: Zoeann Murphy, Jorge Ribas, Patrick Martin/The Washington Post, Photo: Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)
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Some D.C. leaders and Metro’s largest union are outraged at the transit agency for allowing its trains to be used to provide “special treatment” for white supremacists traveling to Foggy Bottom for Sunday’s Unite the Right rally in Washington.

D.C. Council members Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large) and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) said they were concerned and angered that police escorted Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler and a handful of other rally participants onto what they described as a “private” Metro car.

The outrage follows extensive consternation last week when news surfaced that Metro was considering providing a private or “special” train to rallygoers. Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans, who also is a D.C. Council member, confirmed that the idea was under consideration, although Metro said definitively that it would not provide a special train to Kessler or anyone else planning to participate in the march.

Metro no longer considering separate trains for white nationalists attending ‘Unite the Right’ rally

What transpired on Sunday was not a “private train” per se, although it wasn’t completely public, either.

Kessler and other march participants arrived at Vienna Metro station at 2 p.m. and were given a police escort as they boarded the rear car of an Orange Line train headed to Foggy Bottom.

For a few minutes, as the group was escorted, police temporarily blocked people from entering the station. Nevertheless, the car carrying Kessler — the last car of the train — was not completely private, as a gaggle of journalists managed to board alongside the rallygoers. Once the train departed the station, the station and platform were reopened.

With several police officers on each car, the train departed Vienna and made all of its usual stops at every station as it drove toward downtown Washington and picked up passengers along the way.

The digital display on the outside of each train car read “SPECIAL,” causing some concern for passersby — but, in fact, all the inbound Orange Line trains on Sunday were marked as such, because they were being stopped at Foggy Bottom station due to the rally and track work.

On the Orange Line train platforms, some transit police officers advised waiting passengers to move toward the front of the train and board cars there, to avoid the chaos and confusion of Kessler’s group, TV cameras and journalists crowded at the rear. Reporters on that car said they saw police officers directing people to board on another part of the train.

When the train arrived at Foggy Bottom station, all the other passengers were asked to exit first. Then, Kessler and his cohorts were escorted off the train and onto the station platform, where they were met by several dozen protesters who were kept about 60 feet away from the white-supremacist group.

Police continued to escort that group out of the station and on toward Lafayette Square.

Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said Sunday that decisions on escorting the group via train were ultimately made by D.C. police.

“They were escorted by police onto the rear of the train and police rode in that rail car and others to protect the safety of everyone on board the train,” Ly said. “Vienna station remained opened to the public at all times. Any changes to traffic patterns were directed by police for crowd management.”

Still, the phalanx of police that surrounded the Kessler group — and, in some views, seemed to be protecting them — outraged many people in the region who felt that the accommodations were still too much for a group peddling such abhorrent views.

Those concerns were echoed by Jackie Jeter, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents train operators and the majority of other Metro employees.

“Today, the public was lied to by WMATA General Manager Paul Weidefeld the same way he has been lying to this union for the last two years,” Jeter said in a statement. “The special accommodation for a hate rally in Washington D.C. was dishonest, unprecedented, and not a reflection of the principles of ATU Local 689 or ‘DC Values.’ ”

Jeter said she is calling for Wiedefeld’s resignation.

Reis Theibault contributed to this report.