proud boys washington dc antifa
© Agence France-)resse / Stephanie Keith
Proud Boys members at the 'Defend Free Speech' rally in Washington DC
Leftist and 'Antifa' activists have descended on Washington DC to oppose a 'free speech rally' led by right-wing figures including the 'Proud Boys' and Milo Yiannopoulos. Expecting clashes, police have closed roads.

The 'Demand Free Speech' rally kicked off on Saturday at Washington DC's Freedom Plaza, just blocks from the White House. Trump supporters, nationalists and various other right-wing groups turned out to hear speeches from conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, as well as a gaggle of hopeful politicians courting the vote of the disaffected right.

Perhaps anticipating a rerun of last weekend's violent Proud Boys/Antifa clashes in Portland, Oregon, DC police closed roads for two blocks in all directions around Freedom Plaza, and manned barricades to keep left-wing counter-protesters away from the right-wingers.

At several points throughout the afternoon, Antifa members attempted to break through the police cordon, but were shoved back by officers. Scuffles also broke out between the masked leftists and Trump supporters, and police intervened to stop some Antifa protesters vandalizing newsstands and street signs.

As the crowd dispersed later on Saturday afternoon, some activists lingered in the streets, chanting slogans and arguing with police. The right-wing protesters were bussed to an afterparty, according to the event website.

The leftist protesters aseembled earlier at a rall of their own, where Black Lives Matter, LGBT and socialist speakers addressed the crowd. The rally's organizers were reluctant to grant press access, and circulated a set of media guidelines warning journalists to "avoid publishing any potentially incriminating photos or video footage."