His supporters will be met by counterprotesters who hope to protect Black Lives Matter Plaza and by a police force determined to keep the two groups apart.
But long before the day’s events officially started, clashes had already begun. Just before midnight on Friday, a chaotic brawl broke out between small groups of Trump supporters and anti-Trump demonstrators at 15th and K streets NW, two blocks from the White House. With about a dozen people on each side, angry taunts escalated into shoving, tackling, punching and kicking.
D.C. police officers tried to separate the sides, but were shoved by people from both groups who seemed intent on a fight. In the skirmish, one anti-Trump supporter was wrestled to the ground and kicked repeatedly. Five people were arrested on charges that included assaulting officers, disorderly conduct, inciting violence and resisting arrest.
The scene mimicked the series of nighttime tussles that followed last month’s Pro Trump march. Although permits for Saturday estimate crowds in excess of 15,000, officials expect significantly fewer people to show than the thousands who rallied that day in November, when the president made an appearance to wave to his fans.
In the weeks since, much of America has turned its attention to Biden’s transition, rising coronavirus cases and the holidays, largely tuning out Trump’s attempts to maintain power. But to his most dedicated supporters, his megaphone is as loud as ever. He has continued to falsely claim the election was stolen from him, and so his faithful have returned to the nation’s capital in his honor, with red hats, MAGA flags and at least two buses bearing the president’s smiling face.
On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted to praise them: “Wow! Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal. Didn’t know about this, but I’ll be seeing them! #MAGA.”
The demonstrations have left downtown Washington closed to traffic once again, with streets near the White House and north side of the Mall blocked until early Sunday.
There are events planned for the Capitol, Supreme Court, Freedom Plaza and a theater near the Washington Monument, as multiple pro-Trump groups vie for attention and crowds. Many have come anticipating an appearance from former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who recently was pardoned by the president.
While they waited, they sang the national anthem, said the Pledge of Allegiance and waved “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. The mostly maskless crowd, including two women blowing into shofars, marched past a sign in front of the United Methodist Building that said “Love Thy Neighbor. Wear A Mask.”
At least one extremist group is in the city: the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist organization with ties to white nationalism. Their presence at November’s “Stop the Steal” rally intensified tension between pro-Trump supporters and counterprotesters, and by nightfall, multiple violent skirmishes broke out. One man was…
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