Authorities have promised an enormous police presence to keep both sides apart and avoid the street brawls that broke out previous year in downtown Charlottesville.
U.Va. was the scene of a torch-lit march the night before the first Unite the Right rally past year, where hundreds of white nationalists, carrying Tiki torches, gathered at the rotunda and surrounded a group of counterprotesters around the Jefferson statue.
The security measures seemed to have worked as most of the Saturday's events proceeded in a peaceful manner.
A group of more than 200 protesters then marched to another part of the University of Virginia's campus, where many in the crowd shouted at officers in riot gear who had formed a line. Both Kessler and opposition groups have permits from the National Park Service to demonstrate at the park, a leafy seven-acre enclave just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the president's residence.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Peter Cvjetanovic, right, appears with neo-Nazis, alt-right supporters and white nationalists holding tiki torches and chanting at counterprotesters in Virginia on August 11, 2017.
The counter-demonstration organized by Lance's Shut It Down D.C. coalition will feature minority, immigrant and other groups targeted by white nationalists, said Lance, "so that people can see overwhelmingly that these folks are unacceptable and are invaders in our town".
Trump's remarks also led to a series of business leaders announcing they would exit a council providing assistance to the administration.
The rally on Sunday, called Unite the Right II, is scheduled to take over Lafayette Square for two hours in the evening. But that plan was abandoned when the union representing Metro's workers, predominantly people of color, made clear that they did not want to provide special arrangements for racists. Extra precautions, including a firearms ban, have been taken to help prevent violence during this year's gathering.
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It was a departure from his comments a year ago in which he said "very fine people" were among the white supremacists in Charlottesville, prompting a political firestorm that lasted for days and culminated in an infamous press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in NY. But several days after the deadly violence in the city, he tweeted, "Heather Heyer was a fat, disgusting Communist".
"This anniversary is also a time to look forward. It is what you say about him".
A makeshift memorial for Heyer has been started ahead of planned protests.
US President Donald Trump, who was heavily criticised for his response to last year's Unite the Right, came under fire again on Saturday after he condemned "all types of racism and acts of violence" without specifically mentioning neo-Nazis or white supremacists.
Maurice Cook, a DC-based organiser and cofounder of the March for Racial Justice group, agreed, telling Al Jazeera that Sunday's counterprotest "is an opportunity for us to come together, recruit and do the structural work that we are charged to do to dismantle the impact of white supremacy in our country".
"I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence", Trump added, before declaring, "Peace to ALL Americans!" She later said the comments "had nothing to do with race or ethnicity".
The local chapter of Black Lives Matter is also planning a separate march to the site.