Trump Supporters, Counterprotesters Clash At D.C. Rally Contesting Biden's Victory
Updated at 1:27 a.m. ET on Sunday
Thousands of President Trump's most fervent supporters were out in Washington, D.C., on Saturday for a day of rallying that echoed the false assertion that the presidential election was marked by fraud.
One week after Joe Biden's presidential victory brought about spontaneous celebrations in the nation's capital, a crowd that included the group Women for America First, right-wing activists and conspiracy theorists gathered in the city's downtown near the White House.
Members of the Proud Boys, a Western-chauvinistic movement designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, were also seen out on the streets of Washington.
A rally and a march to insist that Trump rightfully won a second term were planned for the day. The events went by several names, including the Million MAGA March, the March for Trump and Stop the Steal DC.
By late Saturday morning, hundreds had assembled in Freedom Plaza near the White House.
The demonstrations unfolded peacefully for most of the day, but counterprotesters clashed with the president's supporters and violence erupted as night fell. Counterprotesters were seen overturning tables of vendors selling Trump merchandise, as well as stealing Trump hats and flags and setting them on fire, according to The Washington Post.
Two officers were injured and at least 20 people were arrested, according to the D.C. Mayor's Office. Of those arrests, four were for firearm violations, two for simple assault, one for an assault on a police officer and two for disorderly conduct, D.C. police told member station WAMU. Seven guns were recovered. It was not immediately clear if the guns belonged to Trump supporters or counterprotesters.
Scattered clashes turned violent around 8 p.m., when Trump supporters armed with batons and counterprotesters collided in a brawl five blocks from the White House, The Post reported, before police broke up the groups. A city fire official said a young man was transported to the hospital for serious injuries after he was stabbed in the back during the fight, according to the newspaper.
Broad cross-section of Trump supporters here, nearly all rejecting his loss & claiming fraud. Some said they came to show love for Trump & thank him, others said they want to fight for 4 more years. Among crowd: QAnon, Proud Boys, American Guard, Patriot Prayer, confederate flags pic.twitter.com/nGkKBcrOBg— Hannah Allam (@HannahAllam) November 14, 2020
Videos from earlier in the day showed attendees waving American flags and Trump 2020 flags. Few could be seen wearing masks, even as the U.S. on Friday announced a new daily record of 184,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.
At one point, the crowd was greeted by Trump himself, who rode past demonstrators in his motorcade shortly after 10 a.m. Trump, who has refused to concede the election to Biden, waved to supporters, who held out signs reading "Best prez ever" and "Stop the steal."
Trump had teased a possible appearance in a tweet on Friday, saying that it was "heartwarming" to see the support and that "I may even try to stop by and say hello."
Supporters came from far and wide, with many reportedly documenting their trips to Saturday's events. Luis Huerta told member station WAMU that he and his family had driven without stopping from Midland-Odessa, Texas, for the rallies.
"It's about time our voices were heard and about time we stop giving ground," Huerta said while holding a "Texans for Trump" sign.
Later in the afternoon, protesters moved to the Supreme Court for a rally, chanting "Four more years!" and "USA!" Among speakers was the far-right media personality and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Tammy Summers, who traveled to Washington from Missouri, said she was there to show her support for Trump as he continues to contest the election results.
"We're here to tell President Trump that we totally support him," Summers said. "He should never give up the fight and never give in."
Summers also questioned findings that concluded that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
"First, they were saying there was no evidence of fraud. Now they're saying there's no widespread evidence of fraud. I'm sorry, one incident of fraud against our election system is too many," she said.
Election officials — both Democratic and Republican — across the U.S. have thoroughly debunked claims of fraud and malfeasance in the 2020 presidential election.
They were joined on Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security, which in a statement concluded, "There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised." The statement, which was put out by agencies within the department responsible for election integrity, called the Nov. 3 election " the most secure in American history."
Planned counterprotests also took place in the city.
The group Refuse Fascism DC posted a video of its demonstration starting in Black Lives Matter Plaza.
At the Supreme Court, police separated Trump supporters from a group of anti-fascist and anti-Trump protesters, according to video posted to Twitter. After several hours, counterprotesters eventually moved on from the Supreme Court demonstration.
The arrival of the "stop the steal" caravans had earlier raised concerns in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.
A handful of skirmishes broke out Friday as counterprotesters attempted to prevent the removal of signs on fencing around the White House.
On Saturday morning, video posted by local activists showed what appeared to be a small group of rallygoers ripping down anti-racism and anti-police-brutality artwork in Black Lives Matter Plaza. That section of the city was renamed during massive racial justice protests over the summer.
.@MayorBowser @ChiefNewsham is allowing the @DCPoliceDept to do nothing while Trump supporters with no Mask destroy the Black Lives Matter Memorial and incite violence. They want a Riot on the Plaza. #BlackLivesMatter #DefendBlackLives pic.twitter.com/USOHWjZoEu— Black Lives Matter DC (@DMVBlackLives) November 14, 2020
Fears that attendees would bring guns — as was the case during anti-lockdown protests in several states in recent months — were also high.
On Saturday, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine tweeted out a reminder about local gun laws, which prohibit openly carrying a firearm and restrict where permitted conceal-carry weapons are allowed.
"No firearms are allowed around the White House, the National Mall, the Tidal Basin or the US Capitol – permit or no permit," Racine tweeted.
Washington, D.C.'s chief of police offered a similar warning.
Ahead of the demonstrations, police in Washington announced road closures and parking restrictions.
NPR's Hannah Allam, Tom Bowman and member station WAMU contributed to this story.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.