In collaboration with the local community, DC Peace Team deployed 24 trained persons as an unarmed civilian protection (UCP) unit on Aug. 12 during the Unite the Right rally in Washington DC.
DC Peace Team is not affiliated with the police or the city government. We are independent trained civilians deployed to prevent violence.
DC Peace Team deployed to accompany and protect people, particularly those who are most in danger. For example, the UCP unit was requested to assist with the resistance movement at Freedom Plaza from 11 am-3 pm and then to accompany them on their march to Lafayette Square. During our time at Freedom Plaza, our unit was broken into four affinity groups which
worked the outer perimeter and engaged in many conversations as we handed out de-escalation tip sheets. Some wanted to know who we are, how they could join the DC Peace Team, to simply offer a thank you for the team’s presence, and to express that they felt safer with the team in place.
DC Peace Team held conversations to build trust with people from the various groups at the rally, such as Antifa. This enabled the team to be more effective later in the day when hostility built up and arguments ensued even within partner groups. DC Peace Team was able to defuse a pair of persons close to getting into a fight about the tactic of throwing objects.
We also spent the afternoon in Lafayette Square and the surrounding streets, particularly on the west side toward Foggy Bottom. We continued our conversations with people in the northern part of the square. We sent two affinity groups west to monitor possible clash points and to engage what we could. We monitored the arrival of the Unite the Right group, although they ended up being quite small (15-20 people) and they were escorted by police. We de-escalated some actors involved in the blocking of an intersection near the White House which led to a stand-off between the police, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and others. DC Peace Team sought to persuade the police not to harm the protestors. Many objects were thrown and fire-crackers were shot up in the air. But it did not escalate from there.
DC Peace Team was also present at a later stand-off between police and Black Lives Matter which ended after some chanting and attempts by BLM to persuade the police to open the street.
As some of the Peace Team affinity groups arrived back in Lafayette Square, they found other members in the midst of an unexpected incident. Two people who entered a space of an adversarial group had been engaged
in multiple conversations. At some point, the larger group asked them to leave and the two persons asked the marshals (who were not DCPT) nearby to help them. As they did this, a more hostile crowd gathered. Some of our DC Peace Team in the vicinity recognized the danger for escalation and many people getting hurt or arrested beyond these two persons.
In turn, for the protection of everyone in the scene, some of our team worked to create a safer space between these two people and the group as they walked out of the square. Some of our team engaged with some of the more hostile actors as spray paint was used, de-humanizing language,
as well as water bottles being thrown, which hit one of the persons leaving the area and one of our DCPT member’s in the head. As the Peace Team engaged with some of the hostile actors, we worked to acknowledge their anger as a way to connect and de-escalate. Some of Peace Team said to these actors they were our brothers or sisters, that we loved them, and that we were there to protect them not interfere with their frustrations. Others spoke about how we don’t want to just replicate the violence we detest in others, and how they don’t need to hurt people to get the change they are
looking for. We needed to do similar de-escalation work as the police became part of the scene, since for some, the police presence escalated the energy. Eventually, the police drove the two persons out of the area. No one else got hurt or arrested in this incident.
Eli McCarthy, DC Peace Team member, said, “Overall, by recognizing the dignity of every person, DC Peace Team worked to interrupt de-humanization, prevent violence, and when possible engaged in constructive dialogue. Even when we might disagree with some political positions or strategies used by some people, we still recognized their dignity. Yet, we also recognized that there is constructive conflict, such as expressions of resistance to injustice, racism, and white supremacy.”
This is what unarmed civilian peacekeeping looked like at the anti-Nazi rally. No one was hurt.