WASHINGTON – A federal building in downtown Washington that hosted a white nationalists meeting over the weekend and drew scores of street protesters cannot bar users because of their political views, its managers said.
Protesters blocked traffic near the Ronald Reagan Building on Saturday to express their outrage at the meeting of the National Policy Institute. The think tank is part of the alt-right movement that includes neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites and came to the fore in the presidential election.
CNN reported one man who emerged from the meeting a few blocks from the White House was hurt in a scuffle with demonstrators. Police did not report any arrests.
The Ronald Reagan Building, the biggest structure in the U.S. capital city, is federally owned, but run by Trade Center Management Associates, a unit of Drew Co., a Boston real estate development company.
It is the only federal building dedicated to both public and private use. Trade Center Management Associates’ contract mandates that unless there is a security threat by an organization or person who asks for meeting space, the building is available for rental, it said in a statement on Friday.
The company “does not always share the views held by its clients but as managers of a federal government building, we also cannot prohibit rental of this space based on political or religious beliefs,” it said.
Spokesmen for Trade Center Management Associates and for the National Policy Institute did not respond to requests for comment.
Washington is among cities nationwide that have seen protests against President-elect Donald Trump, who drew criticism for naming Steve Bannon, former head of a website that some have linked to the alt-right, as his chief White House strategist.
The agenda of the National Policy Institute’s Saturday meeting included a breakdown of the 2016 election and plans for the growth of the alt-right.
The nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, described National Policy Institute President Richard Spencer as an “academic racist” who backs creation of an Aryan homeland.
Spencer’s was among several accounts linked to the alt-right movement suspended by Twitter last week. The move followed the microblogging service’s announcement that it would upgrade some features to better combat cyber-bullying.
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