Thousands of President Donald Trump supporters have turned out in Washington DC to back his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the election.
“MAGA” Flag-carrying demonstrators were joined by members of far-right groups including the Proud Boys, some wearing helmets and bulletproof vests.
The crowd had even reveled in a personal visit from Donald Trump, who passed by in his motorcade, smiling and waving.
But that was before the people who oppose their hero showed up, and the mood grew tenser, as 300 or so counter-protesters delivered a message the president’s most ardent backers were unwilling to hear: The election is over. Trump lost.
On stark display in the nation’s capital were two irreconcilable versions of America, each refusing to accept what the other considered to be an irrefutable fact.
There were brief but intense clashes. People spewed profanity and shouted threats, threw punches, and launched bottles.
They were urged on by Donald Trump, who refuses to concede or allow a formal transition to President-elect Joe Biden to begin. On Saturday morning, as his devotees remained in Washington D.C. to fight for him, the president headed to Trump National in the Virginia suburbs for a round of golf.
After a week in which more than 750,000 Americans were diagnosed with the COVID-19, almost none of the protesters was wearing masks. Among their ranks were white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, and far-right activists from across the country.
Donald Trump had thrilled them when his motorcade appeared on Pennsylvania Avenue shortly after 10am., Trump smiled and waved from a car window as his cheering fans scrambled to the side of Freedom Plaza to catch a glimpse.
He drove right past me. I saw him. He waved right past me, one man said, squatting to collect himself.
A group of women huddled around their phone, looking at a video of Trump’s appearance near a Walt Whitman quote inscribed in the stone beneath them – The President is there in the White House for you, it is not you who are here for him.
Then the appearance of counter-protesters sparked bursts of conflict. When a small group holding bright orange Refuse Fascism posters arrived at the corner of Freedom Plaza, they were almost immediately surrounded by Trump fans shouting “USA! USA!” into their faces.
The women leading the tiny march fought their way up 14th Street, repeatedly breaking out of the crowd only to be engulfed again. They yelled into their megaphone, Trump pack your s—. You’re illegitimate.
One pro-Trump man attempted to gouge the opposition with a flag bearing the president’s name. Another grabbed a woman’s neon orange poster and hit her with it.
When the women made it to the barrier set up by police across the street, Trump supporters filled the entire intersection, blocking them in. Police arrived on bikes and, after several minutes, moved the crowd back.
Shortly after, the pro-Trump crowd began singing the national anthem.
Soon after, on the street beside inscriptions from Abraham Lincoln recognizing the District as a place of freedom, people piled atop a U-Haul truck with a flag of a gun and the words, Come and take it.
The president’s backers, who include white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, and far-right activists from across the country, carried Trump flags and signs demanding action that was already being taken: Count the legal votes. One man, dressed in camouflage and a red “MAGA” hat, waved an American flag attached to a baseball bat.
A family of four on Capital Bikeshare bikes the father with an American flag tied around his neck like a cape were cut off by a line of counterprotesters as they tried to leave a tense scene outside the Supreme Court around 1:pm.
Get out of our city! a young woman in black yelled.
You lost, losers! shouted a man.
The father and his teenage son began to chant USA, raising their fists as police officers surrounded the family and pushed them out of the crowd.
Why would you bring your kids here? It’s dangerous, observed a man nearby, a helmet on his head and respirator hanging around his neck.
On a day when President Trump supporters touted a vast array of falsehoods, his spokeswoman, Kayleigh McEnany, offered perhaps the most ludicrous.
More than one million marchers for President @realDonaldTrump descend on the swamp in support,” she tweeted, exaggerating the crowd size by a factor of about 200.
Among the protesters were members of the Proud Boys, an extremist group known for their black and yellow colors and endorsements of violence. Some wore flak jackets and helmets. Stand Back, Stand By, read some of their shirts, referencing the president’s directive to them at a September debate.
By early Saturday afternoon, as conservative speakers at Freedom Plaza derided the news media, including Fox News, the Proud Boys marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, leading hundreds in chants of “f*** antifa” and shouting down stray opponents who yelled Black lives matter.
Marching with them was D.C. resident Justin Anthony, who waved a satirical sign that read, Sue anyone who did not vote for this great American.
He led chants to the tune of Count only Trump votes and danced around in a large mock police uniform with the name Officer Pudge on its badge.
The demonstrators had begun arriving Friday afternoon, where they found a White House surrounded by steel barricades adorned with a 15-foot-long, black and white sign declaring that he was not, in fact, the election’s winner. LOSER, it announced.
Just before sunrise Saturday morning, that and a matching sign FAILURE were taken down by federal officials from inside the fencing, according to two witnesses, including activist Nadine Seiler, who recorded the scene.
“Trump is still a loser!” she shouted.