As Trump supporters began gathering in Washington, D.C., for demonstrations in support of President Trump’s efforts to stay in power despite his loss in the presidential election, opponents, including Black Lives Matter groups, said they intended to steer clear of confrontations and avoid potential violence that has public officials worried.
“While BLM DC will not be in the streets on January 6, 2021, leaders and activists are mounting a public education campaign now to demand justice,” said the Black Lives Matter DC group in a statement.
Nee Nee Taylor, an organizer with BLM DC, told Yahoo News that their group is calling on D.C. hotels not to sell rooms to Trump supporters, but that “we need to be here after Jan. 6” to continue working toward their goals.
“We hope that by asking people to stay away from those areas we can keep people as safe as possible,” Taylor said. She added that BLM DC was “not policing any organization” that did want to march or demonstrate, and that they supported their right to do so.
Taylor and another activist, Beth Yirga of the Palm Collective, said that they had become concerned in recent days by threats of violence by Trump supporters on right-wing social media sites.
“We are not encouraging or discouraging individuals to be out,” Yirga told Yahoo News. She said that for those who did go out into the streets, her organization had set up “remote resources” to give them assistance, such as places to go, communications resources and “extractions” from trouble spots.
Other racial justice groups in D.C. indicated a similar position. A representative for Shut Down D.C. said in a direct message on Instagram that “we are encouraging people to keep themselves safe … whatever that means for them.”
“We are not encouraging people to fight the Trumpists. SDDC as a group will be doing distributed art actions and do not expect to engage them,” the spokesperson said.
Another group, D.C. Teens Action, was hosting a self-defense training on Tuesday evening, but a representative for that group also told Yahoo News via Instagram that “as far as I know, no one from DCTA will be in the streets.”
“We have been sharing information from different [organizations] so people know what their options are, but we aren’t encouraging people either way,” the DCTA representative said.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked “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.”
Congress will certify the Electoral College results on Wednesday, which is the last step in the transition of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden before the Jan. 20 inauguration. By Tuesday, Trump supporters were arriving in Washington, drawn by the president’s call for a massive rally to support his efforts to subvert the presidential election. Trump tweeted plans to speak at a “Save America Rally” at the Ellipse at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
The president and his supporters have provided no evidence of the charges that the election was stolen from him, and every claim advanced in court has been rejected by state and federal judges, including some appointed by Trump himself.
The president intimated in a Tuesday evening tweet that members of Congress should be intimidated by the presence of his supporters in the city. “I hope the Democrats, and even more importantly, the weak and ineffective RINO section of the Republican Party, are looking at the thousands of people pouring into D.C. They won’t stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen,” Trump said, specifically tagging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his top two deputies in the Senate.
A former aide to Vice President Mike Pence has said that she is worried about violence because “the president himself is encouraging it."
Fantasies about overturning the election results have been propped up by Republican members of Congress. A majority of Republican members of the House of Representatives and more than a dozen senators have said they will object to the electoral slates certified by one or more states on Wednesday. The Constitution does not give Congress any power to change the election outcome if there is a clear Electoral College winner. Neither does the Constitution give Vice President Mike Pence the authority to overturn the result, despite Trump’s urging him to do so.
The greatest concern around violence stems from a group called the Proud Boys, a self-described male chauvinist group with white nationalist ties. Twice since the Nov. 3 election thousands of Proud Boy members have assembled in Washington, roaming the streets, appearing to seek out violent confrontations with opponents.
One D.C. attorney told Yahoo News that he and other lawyers had been bombarded with calls from out-of-state Trump supporters asking for guidance on whether the law allows them to bring firearms into the city. It was a much higher volume of calls than occurred ahead of the prior two events on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12.
The short answer is that in most cases, they are not. Bowser released information on Monday reminding visitors that a permit to carry a concealed firearm in another state is not recognized in the District, and that it is a criminal offense to carry a concealed weapon without a permit issued by the city. She also noted that it is illegal to carry a firearm within 1,000 feet of a First Amendment rally.
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested in D.C. on Monday and charged with destruction of property based on evidence that he took part in burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was torn from a historic Black church during last month’s street skirmishes. Tarrio was also charged with two felony counts of unlawful possession of high-capacity magazines.
Tarrio, who also reportedly serves as chief of staff for the grassroots group Latinos for Trump, posted on Parler last week that “the Proud Boys will turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th but, this time, with a twist.” Instead of their traditional uniform of black-and-yellow polo shirts, he suggested that members of the far-right group would dress in all black, a look typically associated with members of antifa.
“We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown DC in smaller teams,” wrote Tarrio.
Now it looks like Tarrio won’t be able to participate at all. On Tuesday, a judge banned Tarrio from coming into D.C. except for meetings with his attorney or to appear in court.
Also planning to be in attendance on Wednesday are members of right-wing militia groups like the Oath Keepers, who are often seen armed and dressed in military garb at large protests where they present themselves as “volunteer security,” as well as followers of the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy movement.
Yahoo News first reported in August 2019 that the FBI had identified QAnon believers as “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists,” who pose a “potential domestic terrorist threat.” Since then, the cult-like online movement, which was originally based on a myth about Donald Trump secretly fighting against a “deep state” cabal of satanic pedophiles, has evolved into an all-purpose vehicle for a variety of paranoid conspiracy theories — including those related to the 2020 election.
According to the Washington Post, accounts linked to QAnon have also contributed to a slew of recent posts circulating on far-right forums encouraging Trump supporters to bring guns to protests in Washington on Wednesday, which would be a violation of local laws.
Newly elected Republican House members Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, both of whom have embraced QAnon, are among the high-profile Trump allies and far-right personalities who are slated to speak at the formal events planned around Wednesday’s electoral vote count.
The National Park Service has reportedly approved at least three different permit applications from groups planning protests, the first of which is scheduled for Tuesday evening, with many others promoting the demonstrations online and even coordinating caravans of Trump supporters traveling to D.C. from around the country.
Other speakers expected to take one of the stages include conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Roger Stone, the longtime Republican strategist who recently received a full pardon from Trump for multiple felony convictions for attempting to impede Congress’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The biggest headliner, of course, is President Trump himself. For weeks, Trump has been urging supporters from around the country to gather in D.C. this week for what he’s promised will be a “wild” day of protests. As demonstrations began to get underway in Washington on Tuesday evening, he tweeted in support of those who heeded the call.
“Washington is being inundated with people who don’t want to see an election victory stolen by emboldened Radical Left Democrats,” Trump wrote. “Our Country has had enough, they won’t take it anymore! We hear you (and love you) from the Oval Office. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
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