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Pro-Trump protesters rally for a coup: “We’re not going anywhere”

Pro-Trump protests in Washington, DC, and Washington state turn violent as court defeats pile up.

A man in a black hoodie with the yellow laurel arch logo of the Proud Boys and a black helmet is illuminated by streetlights. His hands are behind his back; behind him, is a Black woman in the navy uniform of the DC police.
A member of the Proud Boys is detained by police during a protest on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Supporters of President Donald Trump demonstrated against the results of the 2020 presidential election on Saturday, in a series of rallies that underscored the hold the president retains on backers both within and outside the Republican Party.

At least two of these protests ultimately became violent — four people were stabbed in Washington, DC, and one person was shot in the city of Olympia, in Washington state. No deaths were reported, though all four stabbing victims are said to be hospitalized in critical condition as of Sunday. As of early Sunday, no information is available about the status of the shooting victim in Washington state.

In addition to the four people who were stabbed, at least five others were hospitalized in DC on Saturday, and more than 20 people were arrested on a variety of charges, including assault. Three people, including the suspected shooter, were arrested in Olympia, according to the Olympian.

Members of the Proud Boys — a violent, neofascist hate group that frequently traffics in white nationalism and misogyny — were also recorded in DC assaulting bystanders and destroying property. Among other incidents, the group tore down Black Lives Matter signs from multiple DC churches, and burned at least one sign.

The Proud Boys were in Washington, DC, for overlapping protests meant to show support for Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him. Members of the religious far right, as well as attendees of a second “Million MAGA March” — a sequel to a November event that saw tens of thousands of Trump supporters protest in the capital — all converged on DC.

Saturday’s event was far smaller than the one in November, featuring a few thousand people, but was nevertheless celebrated by the president.

“Wow! Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal,” he tweeted Saturday morning. “Didn’t know about this, but I’ll be seeing them!”

Trump later shared video of the rally on Twitter, which showed a tightly packed crowd of maskless supporters cheering on Marine One as it flew overhead.

It was a similar story in Olympia, albeit without any cameos from presidential aircraft, and on a smaller scale. According to the Seattle Times, pro-Trump rallies have become “a regular weekend occurrence at Washington’s Capitol campus,” and Trump supporters clashed with counterprotesters throughout the day Saturday.

Both events came as Trump approaches his sixth week of denying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, which took place on November 3, and as the president continues to spread disinformation about the election’s results. Those results will be further cemented Monday, when the Electoral College votes to formally elect Biden.

The rhetoric of the protesters and their leaders, however, suggests that fact will have little influence on false claims the election was stolen from Trump — and that the president’s supporters will remain loyal to him and his alternate-reality claims.

Trump’s rhetoric is emboldening his supporters — and solidifying their support

The events in Washington, DC, featured not just Proud Boys and grassroots activists but an eclectic parade of well-known Trump allies, conspiracy theorists, and grifters, all of whom echoed Trump’s efforts to spread disinformation, encouraged the crowd to continue to reject the results of the election, and made their loyalty to Trump plain.

Recently pardoned former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn told the crowd how important it was to let Trump know “that we love him.” And MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell joined many of the day’s speakers in placing the president’s struggle to overturn the election’s results in a religious context, saying the world may now be in “end times.”

Lindell also took time during his speech — as the president has done repeatedly in recent days — to call out Republicans who have been insufficiently fervent in their defenses of Trump’s lies about the election, calling them “cowards,” and warning them, “We’re not going anywhere.”

Other prominent figures went further than Lindell; speaking to a crowd of supporters, Nick Fuentes — a white nationalist leader in a far-right movement that views many Trump allies as insufficiently conservative — said, “We are going to destroy the GOP.”

The crowd responded by chanting, “Destroy the GOP,” and with boos when Fuentes brought up Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Both are running in January special elections, and the GOP’s Senate majority rests on both winning.

Other speakers included Alex Jones — a conspiracy theorist known for harassing the families of mass shooting victims and promoting 9/11 trutherism — and US Representative-elect Bob Good of Virginia, who began his speech by describing the coronavirus as a “phony pandemic,” despite the fact that nearly 300,000 people have now died of Covid-19 in the US.

QAnon, the insane pro-Trump conspiracy theory that posits the existence of a global cabal of Satanic pedophiles, was also represented at the rally.

Across the board, however, Saturday’s rallygoers emphasized their dedication to Trump — and his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and install himself to an unelected second term in office — above all else.

“If President Trump accepts [his election loss] and Vice President Pence accepts it, then we will accept it,” one attendee, a pastor from California, told the Washington Post. “But right now, this is a Godly protest.”

There’s no end in sight for Trump’s election fraud lies

Despite a rapid-fire string of legal defeats at every level of the federal court system, the energy — and money — that has been generated by the president’s efforts to overturn the election’s results seem to indicate that there’s no end in sight for Trump’s false election fraud rhetoric.

What’s more, the fervent dedication exhibited by rallygoers Saturday underscores an unfortunate reality: Republicans have an electoral incentive to continue their support of Trump’s anti-democratic efforts, in order to escape a primary challenge to the right.

Trump, for his part, has proven completely unwilling to give any ground in his fight to subvert democracy. As recently as Sunday morning, he tweeted without evidence that the 2020 presidential election, which he lost by more than 7 million votes, was the “MOST CORRUPT ELECTION IN U.S. HISTORY!”

These tweets have been backed up by action from the Trump campaign and Republican lawmakers, who have failed time and time again to turn up any evidence of voter fraud or other irregularities. According to Democratic voting-rights lawyer Marc Elias, the president and his supporters are now 1-59 in court, with their most recent loss coming Sunday in Georgia.

The Georgia Supreme Court on Sunday rejected an appeal by the Trump campaign in a case alleging large-scale voter fraud without evidence.

And separately, a Wisconsin state Supreme Court justice told a lawyer for the Trump campaign Saturday that its election lawsuit challenging the results “smacks of racism.”

On Friday, the US Supreme Court also rejected for lack of standing a Texas lawsuit attempting to overturn election results in four key swing states won by Biden. The suit — referred to by Trump as “the big one” — was supported by 17 state attorneys general, as well as more than half of the House Republican conference.

With an Electoral College vote imminent on Monday, both Trump and the Republican establishment are quickly running out of venues to challenge the election results, but as of Sunday, they show few signs of acknowledging reality. On Fox News Sunday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise — the second most powerful Republican in the chamber — again refused to recognize Biden as the president-elect when pressed by anchor Chris Wallace.

Scalise’s acknowledgement isn’t necessary — the presidential transition has already begun and Biden will be sworn in as president on January 20. But it presages a likely fight in Congress over the official counting of Electoral College votes on January 6 — one that Republicans can’t win, as Vox’s Andrew Prokop explains — and it’s an alarming sign in its own right that leaders of one of the country’s two major political parties are unwilling to accept the results of a free and fair election.

The GOP’s willingness to support Trump in his disinformation campaign could have long-term consequences: In a Saturday Fox News poll, for example, 56 percent of registered voters indicated that Trump’s continued refusal to concede was “weakening American democracy.”

But Trump appears unconcerned about the damage he’s doing to the country. “WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!!” he tweeted Saturday.

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