At least six people were arrested in Washington, D.C. Tuesday evening and night as thousands of people geared of larger protests in support of President Trump Wednesday, CBS D.C. affiliate WUSA-TV reported, citing local and U.S. Park Police. Among the charges were gun counts, illegal possession of fireworks and assault on a police officer.
Videos on social media showed some clashes between protesters and police.
Mr. Trump’s supporters descended on the nation’s capital to cheer his baseless claims of election fraud ahead of what will be a highly contentious Wednesday congressional vote to affirm Joe Biden’s election victory. The president is expected to personally address his backers during a Wednesday morning rally on the Ellipse, just south of the White House.
Organizers planned to rally all day on Wednesday on the Ellipse. An afternoon march was also planned to the U.S. 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 Stone.
Just blocks from the White House, protesters – many without masks – gathered in Freedom Plaza on Tuesday to decry the congressional vote. As temperatures dropped to the low 40s and a steady rain swept onto the streets, hundreds remained in the plaza into nightfall.
The president 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!”
Speakers included former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was pardoned by the president pardoned after he was twice convicted of lying to the FBI in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
“We stand at a crucible moment in United States history,” Flynn told the mostly maskless crowd. “This country is awake now.”
Also addressing the crowd was longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, another recipient of a pardon from the president.
The protests coincide with Wednesday’s congressional vote expected to certify the Electoral College results, which Mr. Trump continues to dispute.
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.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser called in National Guard troops to help bolster the city’s police force. She urged residents to stay away from downtown Washington and to avoid confrontations with anyone who is “looking for a fight.” But, she warned, “We will not allow people to incite violence, intimidate our residents or cause destruction in our city.”
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.”
The Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, said that unlike during the unrest in May and June in Washington, it did not plan to deploy agents from Customs and Border Protection to the demonstration Wednesday.
Election officials from both political parties, governors in key battleground states and Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have said there was no widespread fraud in the election. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two challenges rejected by the Supreme Court.
A pro-Trump rally Dec. 12 ended in violence as hundreds of Trump supporters, wearing the signature black and yellow of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, sought out confrontations with a collective of local activists attempting to bar them from Black Lives Matter Plaza, an area near the White House. At least two local Black churches had Black Lives Matter banners torn down and set ablaze.
On Monday, police arrested the leader of the Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, 36, after he arrived in Washington ahead of the protests. Tarrio was accused of burning one of the Black Lives Matter banners in December and was found with two high-capacity firearm magazines, police said. A judge signed an order Tuesday banning Tarrio from entering the District of Columbia, with very limited exceptions related to his criminal case.