Hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump descended on the nation’s capital Tuesday to cheer his claims of election fraud a day before a congressional vote to affirm Joe Biden’s victory.
Just blocks from the White House, protesters gathered in Freedom Plaza to decry the vote in the Electoral College. As temperatures dropped to the low 40s and a steady rain swept onto the streets, hundreds remained in the plaza into nightfall.
Trump tweeted his support for the protesters: “Washington is being inundated with people who don’t want to see an election victory stolen by emboldened Radical Left Democrats. 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!”
The president was expected to personally address his supporters in Washington on Wednesday during a rally on the Ellipse, just south of the White House. The protests coincide with Wednesday’s congressional vote expected to certify the Electoral College results.
In a Tuesday evening tweet, Trump called on Democrats and fellow Republicans to look at the “thousands of people pouring into D.C.” In another tweet, he warned that antifa, the umbrella term for leftist militant groups that Trump has said he wants to declare a terrorist organization, should stay out of Washington.
The rallies had local officials and law enforcement bracing for potential violent street clashes. Many businesses in downtown Washington boarded up their windows, fearful that the protest could devolve into the unrest seen in May and June when dozens of businesses were vandalized.
In addition to the National Guard, federal agents were on standby, in case they were quickly needed in the city this week.
The federal Bureau of Prisons said about 100 “specially trained officers” were sent to the Justice Department headquarters to assist other security personnel but would remain “in a reserve capacity unless needed.”
Organizers rallied into the night on Tuesday and were to rally again all day on Wednesday on the Ellipse. An afternoon march was also planned to the Capitol, where Congress will be voting to affirm the election results. A number of prominent Trump supporters were expected to attend, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, the recipient of a pardon by the president.