The crowd chanted “No Nazis, no KKK, no fascists in the USA!” and carried banners with slogans such as “Stop pretending your racism is patriotism”.
Hundreds of police, many on cycles, were deployed but no violence was reported. Large vehicles were positioned along with concrete barriers to prevent access to the park.
The organizers of the rally said that “misinformation in the media” was “likening our organization to those that ran the Charlottesville rally”.
“While we maintain that every individual is entitled to their freedom of speech and defend that basic human right, we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry,” the group wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to the event.
“We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence.”
The list of speakers for the free speech event changed a number of times in previous days. At times it included speakers who have been associated with the far right.
President Donald Trump has again blamed both sides for the violent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left Heather Heyer dead and 19 others injured.
In a statement on August 14, the president had condemned white supremacists.
However, in New York on August 15, Donald Trump also blamed left-wing supporters for charging at the “alt-right”.
The president’s latest comments drew swift criticism, including from many in his Republican party.
Many echoed Senator John McCain’s view: “There is no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry.”
The right-wing march had been organized to protest against the proposed removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee, who commanded the pro-slavery Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The event drew white supremacy groups.
Violence broke out after they were confronted by anti-racism groups. A car ploughed into one group of anti-racism protesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring 19 others.
Speaking at the White House on August 14, President Trump had said that the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists were “repugnant” to everything Americans held dear.
However, at a bad-tempered press conference at Trump Tower on August 15, Donald Trump reverted to blaming “many sides” for August 12 violence.
“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now,” he said.
“What about the alt-left that came charging… at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? (…) There are two sides to a story.”
President Trump called the driver of the car that ploughed into the anti-racism protesters a disgrace to himself and his country, but said that those who had marched in defense of the statue had included “many fine people”.
He also asked whether statues of former presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should also be torn down, because they had been slave-owners.
President Trump’s remarks were welcomed by David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, who tweeted: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa.”
President Donald Trump has spoken out against racist violence after the killing of a protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12.
He told reporters: “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs.”
President Trump said the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists were “repugnant” to everything Americans held dear.
He was criticized for not specifically denouncing extremists in his initial comments on the violence.
Heather Heyer, 32, died and 19 others were injured when a car rammed into people protesting against a far-right march.
On August 14, James Alex Fields, 20, was formally charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit and run. He was also denied bail during his appearance in court via video from jail.