Updated: Nov. 15, 6:30 a.m.
Several thousand supporters of President Donald Trump gathered in Washington on Saturday to protest election results and echo false claims of fraud, before nighttime clashes with counterdemonstrators sparked fistfights, at least one stabbing and at least 20 arrests.
Several other cities on Saturday also saw gatherings of Trump supporters unwilling to accept Democrat Joe Biden's Electoral College and popular vote victory as legitimate. Cries of “Stop the Steal” and “Count Every Vote” continued in spite of a lack of evidence of voter fraud or other problems that could reverse the result.
After night fell, the relatively peaceful demonstrations in Washington turned from tense to violent. Videos posted on social media showed fistfights, projectiles and clubs as Trump supporters clashed with those demanding they take their MAGA hats and banners and leave. The tensions extended to Sunday morning. A variety of charges, including assault and weapons possession, were filed against those arrested, officials said. Two police officers were injured and several firearms were recovered by police.
Trump himself had given an approving nod to the gathering Saturday morning by dispatching his motorcade through streets lined with supporters before rolling on to his Virginia golf club. People chanted “USA, USA” and “four more years,” and many carried American flags and signs to show their displeasure with the vote tally and insistence that, as Trump has baselessly asserted, fraud was the reason.
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 white-nationalist movement designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, were also seen out on the streets of Washington.
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The events went by several names, including the Million MAGA March, the March for Trump and Stop the Steal DC.
By late Saturday morning, a crowd 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.
Videos from earlier in the day showed attendees waving American and Trump 2020 flags. Few could be seen wearing a mask, even as the U.S. on Friday announced a new daily record of 184,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.
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 onto the Supreme Court for a rally, chanting "four more years" and "USA!" Among speakers was the right-wing 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 concluding 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."
Among the counterprotests, 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 so-called "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 police brutality artwork in Black Lives Matter Plaza. That section of the city was renamed during massive racial justice protests over the summer.
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 of 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.
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