Saturday is shaping up to be one of the busiest days of the year for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. as some 30 events vie for space and attention on federal park land. And while a conservative, pro-Trump rally and a protest organized by fans of the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse, who call themselves Juggalos, are expected to be the day's biggest events, they're certainly not the only demonstrations happening. But exactly what is "The March to Protect American Democracy" expected to take place outside of the White House on Saturday?
While thousands of Trump supporters gather near the Washington monument at the National Mall for the "Mother of All Rallies" and a few thousand Juggalos march and rally at the Lincoln Memorial less than a mile away, a third political protest is scheduled to take place at Lafayette Square just outside the White House. However, "The March to Protect American Democracy" has no ties or affiliation with either the Juggalo protest or the "Mother of All Rallies." In fact, its purpose and message is completely different.
"The March To Protect American Democracy" was organized by 4DPAC, a federally registered political action committee that describes itself as "a community dedicated to defending American global leadership." The group seeks to support Congressional candidates "that believe in the value of progressive American leadership" and "who will defend America and its position in the world" get elected. Organizers are hoping their protest draws renewed attention to Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"Come tell Donald Trump and Paul Ryan to defend our democracy from Russian interference," the official website for "The March to Protect American Democracy" urges would-be participants. "The right to vote is precious - come protect it!"
Reports that Russia had interfered with the 2016 presidential election first surfaced in June of 2014 when the Washington Post reported state-sponsored Russian hackers had accessed the Democratic National Committee's computer system. At that time, Russia denied the allegations, and a U.S. official told CNN they had yet to concluded the attack had been directed by the Kremlin.
A month later the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) launched an investigation into the hack amid rumors U.S. officials believe the Russian government was involved. In October, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of National Intelligence on Election Security say the U.S. intelligence community is "confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions" in a joint statement.
And in January, a declassified version of an intelligence report on Russia's meddling revealed Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a multifaceted campaign in an effort to influence the U.S. election through hacking and pro-Trump propaganda and paid trolls. The Kremlin's reported aim was to assist Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, in getting elected. The report noted that voting machines and vote-counting computers had not appeared to have been infiltrated.
"Russia's interference in the 2016 election was a direct attack on American democracy," a Facebook event page for "The March to Protect American Democracy" reads. "We demand our government protect future elections by punishing Russia's actions and refusing to coordinate with foreign powers in the future."
Organizers behind "The March to Protect American Democracy" have alleged "the United States has done nothing since the election" to ensure Russia is either unable or unwilling to meddle in another U.S. election. Frustrated by what they see as Washington's inaction on Russia's meddling, they began planning their protest in early August.
But "The March to Protect American Democracy" isn't expected to draw as large of a crowd as either the "Mother of All Rallies" or the "Juggalo March on Washington" are. While a few thousand have RSVPed to those events, just 69 people have marked themselves as "going" to "The March to Protect American Democracy" on Facebook with another 486 marked as "interested."
"The March to Protect American Democracy" will kick off at 10 a.m. local time at Lafayette Square. Demonstrators will then march less than half a mile up 16th Street to the Russian Ambassador's residence. Six 2018 Democratic candidates are scheduled to speak at the rally.