Hundreds of pro-Trump demonstrators gathered in Washington, D.C. Saturday donning "Make America Great Again" garb in support of the president's "America First" agenda.
A short distance away, about two dozen counter-protesters gathered in Lafayette Square park across from the White House to demand that President Donald Trump take stronger action against Russia in response to Moscow's interference in the 2016 election.
At the Lincoln Memorial, about 1,500 so-called juggalos — supporters of the rap group Insane Clown Posse — convened to demand that the FBI rescind its classification of juggalos as a "loosely organized hybrid gang."
The National Parks Service braced for crowds in the thousands, but as the events opened there were sparse groups of people gathered on the north end of the mall near the Washington Monument.
The Mother of All Rallies Patriots Unification Gathering on the National Mall began at 10 a.m. ET and was scheduled to end at 5 p.m. ET. The Juggalos March began at noon at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and was slated to close with a concert at the memorial’s plaza.
Organizers of the MOAR event said the purpose of their demonstration was to seek "protection of traditional American culture while they express their love for the United States and the America First agenda," a message on the group’s website says.
Although far fewer people turned out than the organizers expected, perhaps not surprising in Washington, an overwhelmingly Democratic town, the demonstrators were determined to show their support for the president.
"We are here to tell the world, the media and the Congress, not just the Democrats but the Republicans as well, that President Trump has our full support and that it's time to drain this swamp," one of the speakers said from the stage as the crowd applauded.
Trump was not in town to appreciate his supporters. He was spending the weekend at his golf club in New Jersey before attending the U.N. General Assembly next week.
At one point during the rally, a group of Black Lives Matter activists appeared near the stage. But the momentary tension was defused when one of the Trump rally organizers invited them onstage and offered one of them a microphone. "It's your right to say whatever you believe, and it's their (the crowd's) right to let you know what they think about what you're saying,'' the rally organizer said. "The important thing is that everybody has a right to speak their mind."
The Insane Clown Posse and its fans marched against what they say is discriminatory treatment by law enforcement. A 2011 report by the Justice Department's Gang Task Force placed the juggalos, who favor extensive tattoos and outlandish face paint, in the same classification as overtly violent gangs like the Bloods and the Crips. The report said juggalos are "forming more organized subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity."
The group claims to be a nonviolent community subject to largely class-based discrimination by law enforcement.
Jason Webber, an organizer of the Juggalo march and publicst for the ICP's record label Psychopathic Records, alleges the characterization "exposed law-abiding Juggalos to harassment and discrimination by police, employers and others," NBC News reported.
The band, along with the ACLU, sued the FBI in 2014 seeking to change the classification but with little success so far.
While both events have explicitly urged participants in their codes of conduct to not use violence during their respective gatherings, many feared the possibility of clashes in the wake of the violent Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrations where a young woman was killed when a car plowed into a group of people protesting a white nationalist rally.
Photos posted on social media Friday ahead of the events showed Juggalos and Trump supporters coming together, united over what they claim is a free speech issue.
"Juggalos and Trump supporters unite chanting "USA USA" #MOAR #JuggaloMarch,” Twitter user Jack Posobiec captioned a photo of the two groups gathered.
Webber says the group is apolitical, but added that many of the band’s songs speak out against racism and bigotry.
And though organizers of MOAR say they "condemn racists of all colors and supremacy of all colors" in their mission statement, Peter Boykin, president of Gays for Trump and a speaker at the conservative rally, said in an interview with The Washington Post ahead of the event that he will speak out against what he calls "Sharia law, transgender men and women in the military and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program" in his speech.
Wrapping around those events will be the annual Fiesta D.C. parade celebrating Latino culture. The annual parade is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. along Constitution Avenue NW.
Earlier Saturday, runners participated in the Race To Beat Cancer 5K. The event benefiting cancer research celebrates survivors, and honors those who have lost their battles with cancer.
Overall, the NPS said it has issued permits for more than 35 events, including a wedding, making Saturday one of the busiest days of the year for the Metropolitan Police Department. D.C. police said it plans to be "out in full force" to help manage the gridlock conditions brought on by several planned road closures. A full list of planned road closures can be found here.
Police say they were ready for the protests, which are nothing new in the nation's capital.
"Right now, there's a demonstration of some sort happening at the White house. I guarantee you," Jeffery Carroll, assistant chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, said Friday. "It's part of D.C. It's in the fabric of the city."