Pro-Trump rallies draw far-right groups, counterprotesters following Biden victory
AU College Republicans and AU SPA professor react
Exactly one week after the streets of D.C. rang with celebration over Joe Biden’s projected presidential win, thousands of Donald Trump supporters flocked to the District for their own, generally maskless, gathering at Freedom Plaza to protest the results of the election.
Speakers took the stage starting at 12 p.m., falsely labeling Biden’s projected victory a “modern-day coup,” a “stolen” election, among other accusations, even though election security officials called it “the most secure in American history.” The event’s lineup ranged from Congresswoman-elect and QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to Ryan Fournier, the founder and national chairman of Students for Trump.
“This is the party that is working very hard to steal this election and stop Donald J. Trump from being our president for four more years,” said Greene, in reference to the Democratic Party, eliciting boos from the packed crowd.
Other speakers blamed what they called big tech, big money and big media. At one point, the crowd chanted “f--- Fox News,” angered that the generally conservative media outlet projected Biden as the 46th president and called Arizona for Biden earlier than other networks.
Demonstrators waved homemade signs as they left the plaza to embark on a march to the Supreme Court, where many of them expressed hope that it was where Trump’s legal challenges will be brought.
“Founded 1776, STOLEN 2020,” one sign read.
AU College Republicans, who formally recognized Biden as the president-elect, said the group supported the protesters in a statement to The Eagle on Wednesday.
“We fully support marchers’ rights to peacefully protest, just as we always have,” Katy Selinger, AU College Republicans president, wrote. “It is clear that President-elect Biden has a lot of work to do to earn the confidence of the whole country.”
Selinger declined to go into further detail, writing that the statement represented the entirety of the club’s views on the subject.
Dispersed throughout the crowd of Trump supporters were some members of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group. On the way to the Supreme Court, the Proud Boys led a section of the crowd in a rendition of the national anthem, promptly followed with chants of “f--- Antifa.” Multiple far-right groups made public their intentions to attend the various Trump rallies on Saturday, raising concerns from experts about the potential for political violence.
Arriving at the nation’s highest court, demonstrators packed in front of the court steps to hear from more speakers, including conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Directly to the left of the Supreme Court front, a metal fence and a line of police officers with riot shields separated a comparatively small group of counterprotesters from the crowds of Trump supporters. For hours, members on both sides screamed epithets at each other, often making gestures for the other side to confront them physically. At one point, a counterprotester was detained and put in handcuffs by the Metropolitan Police Department, prompting Trump supporters to cheer and chant “back the blue.”
Joe Young, an AU professor and political violence expert, said that with extremists present, the violence was unsurprising but came nowhere near to indicating a “second American Revolution,” as Jones had put it.
“People make lots of statements that they probably wouldn’t stand by, necessarily, because they’re speaking to a crowd that is sympathetic to their views,” Young said. “But the language that people are using about extra-systemic or outside-the-system means to ensure the perpetuation of their party, that’s scary because that’s very anti-democratic.”
After a mostly peaceful, but tense, day of celebration and protest, many Trump supporters returned to their homes and hotel rooms. After the rally, a night of unorganized, often violent clashes between Trump supporters and counterprotesters ensued, resulting in 21 arrests and multiple injuries, including a non-fatal stabbing. The living collection of activism art on the fence at Black Lives Matter Plaza was partially torn down by Trump supporters over the weekend as well.
In response, a cohort of local activist groups restored the fence on Tuesday with new artwork.