SCUFFLES broke out between protesters and police in Washington DC where white nationalists descended to mark the first anniversary of the Charlottesville riots.

The “Unite the Right 2” event billed as a rally for “white civil rights” was planned for 5.30pm local time (7.30am AEST) on Sunday in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House.

As the event kicked off, only about 20 white supremacists trickled in from nearby Vienna, Virginia under heavy police escort at Washington’s Foggy Bottom Metro station, to march and hear alt-right leader Jason Kessler speak.

In comparison, there were at least 300 counter-demonstrators shouting “Shame!” and “Get out of my city!” and jeering them loudly.

After marching to Lafayette Square in front of the White House, the white supremacists were driven in police vans back to a different train station.

Video from the scene shows police and demonstrators clashing as they try to escort Kessler away.

Kessler told reporters that his rally was poorly attended by other white nationalists because of alt-right infighting and leaders within the movement telling followers not to travel to Washington DC to attend the rally.

At Freedom Plaza, located on one end of Pennsylvania Avenue that leads to the US Capitol, a few hundred counter-protesters of all ages, including children and retirees, gathered in a seemingly lighthearted atmosphere.

One group danced in the street.

“The US is for all of us, NOT just some of us,” one sign read, while another said, “Fighting Nazis: An American Tradition.”

Earlier demonstrators refused police orders to leave, prompting scuffles with Secret Service officers.

Unite The Right supporters reportedly threw water bottles and other liquids at their opponents.

Authorities had promised an enormous police presence to keep both sides apart and avoid the street brawls that broke out last year in downtown Charlottesville.

A local woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when an Ohio man, James Fields, drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

At the time, President Donald Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides, spurring criticism from across the political divide that he was equating the counter-protesters with the rally attendees, who included neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.

On Saturday, Mr Trump condemned “all types of racism” in a Twitter post marking the anniversary.

Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Mr Trump, said on Sunday that the media was “just not covering” the president’s repeated denunciations of white nationalists.

“He’s calling for unity among all Americans and he denounced all forms of bigotry and acts of violence and racism,” Conway said on ABC’s This Week.

Democratic US Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said Mr Trump was not doing enough to disavow racists.

“He has not gone far enough,” Mr Cummings said on ABC’s This Week.

“I think it’s a low bar for the president of the United States to simply say he’s against racism. He’s got to do better than that. He’s got to address ... the people who are spouting racist-type comments and do racial, racist-type acts.”

Several counter-protesters gathered near the Washington suburban metro station of Vienna, Virginia, where some white nationalists were expected to board trains to take them into the city.

Police used vehicles and traffic cones to seal off the station’s parking lot, where about 40 officers in ballistic vests were also deployed.

Paul Wiedefeld, chief executive of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs the metro, told reporters at the station that a full blown security operation was in effect to avert the kind of violence that erupted in Charlottesville last year.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Mr Wiedefeld said.