Supporters of President Donald Trump hold a rally in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday protesting the upcoming Electoral College certification
of President-elect Joe Biden. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images hide caption
Supporters of President Donald Trump hold a rally in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday protesting the upcoming Electoral College certification of President-elect Joe Biden.Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Thousands of supporters of President Trump are lining up in downtown Washington, D.C., on Wednesday morning to reject the results of the Nov. 3 election at the egging of Trump himself, who continues to firmly reject the results as rigged.
Ron and Michelle Mueller woke up at 4 a.m. Monday and drove to Dalton, Ga., from their home in Magnolia, Texas, to attend a Trump rally, then drove to D.C. to attend Wednesday's protest.
"We are here to support Trump," Michelle Mueller, 54, told NPR's Sarah McCammon. "El Patron, or the boss, won."
The Muellers believe the Nov. 3 elections were "fraudulent." Michelle says she stayed up all night following the results and "watched it live on TV subtracting votes from Trump" something she believes, she said, because at 11 p.m. Trump was ahead and by 3 a.m. he was losing.
The Muellers said they will keep "fighting for the real winner," by writing letters to their representatives and showing up at rallies and protests in support of Trump.
The protests are timed to coincide with Congress' certification of the Electoral College votes, and aimto pressure Republican lawmakersinto supporting Trump's effort to overturn Biden's electoral victory.
Trump supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images hide caption
Trump supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election.Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
This isn't the first pro-Trump rally in the nation's capital since Biden was declared president-elect. Protests in November and December started peacefully, but ended violently, with several knife fights and vandalized property, including the torching of a Black Lives Matter sign outside Asbury United Methodist Church, a historic black church.
One of the main organizers is the far-right group Proud Boys whose leader, Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, was arrested by police upon arriving in the city earlier this week. He's facing misdemeanor destruction of property charges and two felony counts of possession of high capacity firearm magazines, D.C. police spokesperson Kristen Metzger told NPR.
According to court documents obtained by NPR, the magazines are AR-15/M4 compatible with a capacity of 30 rounds each, and every magazine is labeled with the Proud Boys insignia.
"I sell on my site," Tarrio told the officers who found the magazines in his bookbag. "I had a customer that bought those two mags, and they got returned 'cause it was a wrong address. And I contacted him, and he's like, 'I'm going to be in D.C.,' so I'm like, 'OK, I'll take 'em to you.' "
Proud Boys members typically dress in black and yellow, but are planning to wear all black, to mimic Antifa, a loose affiliation of far-left activists. The two groups have violently clashed in the past.
The U.S. Park Police confirmed that permits for Wednesday's rally at the Ellipse had all been approved, including an amendment from 5,000 people to 30,000 people.
Federal and local law enforcement in the District of Columbia are bracing for potential violence and Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted this week that the city will do what it needs to ensure peaceful gatherings, recommending that Washingtonians stay home.
I am asking Washingtonians and those who live in the region to stay out of the downtown area on Tuesday and Wednesday and not to engage with demonstrators who come to our city seeking confrontation, and we will do what we must to ensure all who attend remain peaceful.— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) January 4, 2021
On Wednesday morning Bowser confirmed there had been "some skirmishes" between protesters and the police the previous night.
"We had several arrests related to that activity, but not a single one of them was a D.C. resident because our residents are staying away," the mayor said.
Every city police officer will be on duty and the city has also mobilized 300 members of its National Guard. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department issued a traffic advisory that includes parking restrictions and street closures around downtown, a larger perimeter than in previous pro-Trump protests.
"My level of anxiety is high," D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said in an interview with CBS News. "My preparation is even more intense than that."
Racine's office is working with the FBI and others, but his main concern is that the Proud Boys will "pick fights, create damage and then act in a very threatening way."
Oren Segal, vice president at the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League, has been working and advising the D.C. government in preparation for Wednesday's protests.
"The stakes are higher today," he said.
Segal says that Trump rallies appeal to extremists seeking to leverage a crisis, but also to people who show up merely in support of Trump, like the Muellers from Texas.
The concern is that nonviolent Trump supporters at these protests will "get wrapped up in the tactics and violence of the extreme fringes," because they are at a protest at the same time, he said.
Trump plans to address the crowd at 11 a.m. at The Ellipse and Segal said anything is expected from him. He could egg the crowd on saying things such as, "they are patriots, that they are on the right side of history," and the problem, Segal said, is that this type of rhetoric animates a range of extremists who view this as a leverage opportunity for their ideas.
Segal anticipates some disruption during the protests, but he's optimistic.
"Some individuals will seek to gain attention to themselves and their cause by engaging in violence," he said. "[But] even at this sort of last hour, I remain hopeful that most of the people who show up will be peaceful."