D.C. Police Prepare for Violence As Protests Erupt Over 2020 Election
Washington, D.C.’s mayor called in the National Guard Monday ahead of demonstrations scheduled for this week to protest Congress’ expected vote to certify that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.
President Donald Trump and his supporters say the election was tainted by voter fraud and should be thrown out.
Beginning with speeches and banners in downtown Washington’s Freedom Plaza, Trump’s supporters made it known Tuesday afternoon they believe the election was stolen from the outgoing president.
The speakers Tuesday evening included conservative radio host Alex Jones and former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone, who was convicted in 2019 of lying to investigators about his contacts with Russians before the 2016 election.
Some of the speakers repeated Trump’s accusations of voter fraud and “fake news” that reported his critics’ comments. Thousands of demonstrators stood nearby in the rain, many holding “Trump 2020” and ”Keep America Great” banners from the president’s failed re-election campaign.
“Stop the steal,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told the crowd while speaking into a microphone on a stage in Freedom Plaza, about one block from the White House.
No widespread violence was reported Tuesday like the vandalism and fights with counter-protesters at other Trump rallies in Washington during November and December.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser insisted at a press conference Monday that it wouldn’t happen again this week.
“They will be mindful of the laws of the District of Columbia,” Bowser said about the protesters. “We will not allow people to incite violence.”
To make good on her promise, she mobilized about 340 National Guardsmen to assist the Metropolitan Police Department. They plan to work in shifts that would place about 115 of them on duty in Washington’s streets at any time.
The National Guardsmen are assisting with traffic management around areas of the city that police cordoned off to make way for the demonstrations. They also are standing by in Metro public transit stations and awaiting possible orders for crowd control.
Bowser said a big police and National Guard presence was needed to confront threats of violence from far right conservative groups.
The threats were common on the groups’ Internet websites, tweets and Facebook pages.
The social media sites for conservative groups Parler and thedonaldwin urged protesters to bring guns to the demonstration.
An anonymous message on the social media site 4chan backed the far right group Proud Boys by writing, “STAND BACK AND STAND BY … SOMEONE HAS TO STOP THESE FAR LEFT RIOTERS.”
The Proud Boys is a neo-fascist and male-only organization that promotes political violence in the United States. In a pro-Trump rally last month, the Proud Boys were blamed for vandalizing Black churches and burning “Black Lives Matter” signs.
Their leader, Enrique Tarrio, was arrested Monday but released from jail on his own recognizance Tuesday. A judge ordered him to stay away from Washington except for his trial scheduled for June.
He is charged with destruction of property for burning a Black Lives Matter banner at the December 12 protest.
He also is charged with “possession of a large capacity ammunition firing device.” Police said they found “two high capacity .556 caliber firearm magazines” in a backpack Tarrio was carrying in his car.
Tarrio pledged to continue his opposition to the election results remotely from his home in Florida.
Police posted signs around downtown streets warning anyone entering the area that guns are not allowed.
Acting Police Chief Robert Contee sternly repeated the warning at a press conference, saying, “Firearms are not permitted.”