Thousands of white nationalists gathered with far-right militia groups on Freedom Plaza in D.C. on Saturday to vocalize their support of lame-duck President Donald Trump and help bolster his false claims that Democrats stole the 2020 election.
With many of the participants refusing to use face coverings, the pro-Trump demonstrators included members of the Boogaloo and Proud Boys. Police reported at least 20 arrests after many in the crowd lingered into the night, hurling rocks, bottles and other objects at counter-demonstrators and even innocent passersby.
Numerous videos uploaded to the internet showed what appeared to be members of the Proud Boys knocking a man to the ground, stomping on and brutally kicking him as a woman attempted to come to the man’s aid.
“Radical left ANTIFA scum was easily rebuffed today by the big D.C. MAGA Rally crowd, only to return at night, after 99 percent of the crowd had left, to assault elderly people and families,” Trump tweeted. “Police got there, but late. Mayor is not doing her job.”
Trump has labeled members of the Black Lives Matter Movement as Antifa, but CBS News defined antifa as anti-facist, and comprised of people who are known not for what they support, but what they oppose: Fascism, nationalism, far-right ideologies, white supremacy, authoritarianism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia.
Trump’s motorcade slowly rode by demonstrators.
Wearing a red MAGA hat, the president gave a thumbs-up to his admirers and the obsessed following responded by wildly cheering and waving American flags and a cache of pro-Trump banners. Trump didn’t get out of his vehicle. He left the rally as secret Service agents escorted him to his Virginia golf course.
The motorcade returned about three hours later as Trump headed back to the White House. Again, the crowd of supporters went wild, cheering “stop the steal,” and waving banners that read, “Trump 2020: Keep America great,” and “All aboard the Trump train.”
Women for America First secured the D.C. rally permit and the right-wing group promised a massive celebration for Trump. The so-called Million MAGA March, which did not come close to having its promised one million participants, also included other pro-Trump groups like Stop the Steal DC.
At nearby Black Lives Matter Plaza, counter-demonstrators carried large banners in support of President-Elect Joe Biden. Many of the signs featured photos of Biden and Vice President-Elect Sen. Kamala Harris. Others had words posted on them including “Loser,” “Fired” and “ByeDon.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Metropolitan Police officials maintained the monitoring of caravans comprised of Trump supporters who reportedly arrived from Texas.
D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham warned that it remains illegal for anyone to carry guns at rallies in the District – a consistent feature of pro-Trump rallies around the country.
“We see some folks that are communicating on social media suggesting that they’re going to bring firearms into our city,” Newsham told NBC News.
“You cannot open carry in the District of Columbia – anywhere in the District of Columbia,” he said.
Members of a truckers’ group calling itself StopTheTires2020 reportedly planned to shut down their vehicles to make a stand against Biden’s “ban on fracking.”
Oregon trucker Jeremy Rewoldt, the organizer of StopTheTires2020, told the trucking website Freight Waves that the US is a capitalist economy and oil is the fuel “she survives on.”
“The blue-collar workers are literally the ones that make the wheels turn,” Rewoldt said. “Without truck drivers, this country could not survive for long.”
Biden has clarified that his proposal only opposes hydraulic fracking on federal lands.
The Facebook group, comprised primarily of truck drivers, members of the U.S. military and their families, along with Trump supporters, reported more than 51,500 members on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Trump’s refusal to accept defeat has stalled the official transition.
According to multiple reports, the federal agency that releases funding to an incoming president-elect, the General Services Administration, has yet to recognize Biden’s victory, denying him access to federal office space and resources.
Biden spent a large portion of the day Saturday huddled with advisors in Delaware.
The president-elect, who continued to ponder over important cabinet assignments, took a bike ride with his wife Jill and Secret Service agents at Cape Henlopen State Park.
He responded in the affirmative to a Reuters News reporter who called out, “Are you any closer to making a cabinet decision?”
Rallies like the one in D.C. will presumably continue until Trump officially concedes or leaves office on Jan. 20. But a growing number of Republicans reportedly have become uneasy with Trump’s refusal to admit defeat.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen, many who witnessed Trump rallies admit they’re concerned about such gatherings turning into superspreader events.
“MAGA super spreader hate rallies combined with the Ku Klux Klan White House being turned into a petri dish and added with that Walter Reed stunt are likely the cause of over 130 U.S. Secret Service Agents currently infected with the coronavirus. This is bio-terrorism. Period,” singer and self-described political junkie Ricky Davila tweeted.