WASHINGTON – Conservative protesters drawn to Washington, DC by scheduled rallies in support of President Donald Trump's refusal to accept presidential election results faced DC activists on Friday and surrounded by police as the country's capital prepares for a potentially exciting weekend of protest.
Dozens of Trump supporters in red Make America Great Again hats and no masks interspersed with masked D.C. activists arriving to defend art and protest signs on the fence around Lafayette Square – the center of months-long protests against racial justice. They screamed, holding up their phones to record the interaction for their respective audiences on social media, and eventually dispersed as police officers circled the square on bikes.
“As I watch this scene now, I can't help but think how much this really is the personification of two Americas,” noted one Black Lives Matter D.C. activist while filming the scene.
In the late afternoon, there were minor clashes near the White House.
The president called Saturday's rallies – promoted by far-right media personalities, white nationalists and conspiracy theorists – “heartwarming” in a tweet Friday afternoon.
"I could even try to come over and say hello," Trump wrote.
The rallies, including a Women for America First event licensed by the National Park Service Friday, are expected to begin at Freedom Plaza around noon. A "Million MAGA March", "March for Trump" and a "Stop the Steal" demonstration are also planned.
Counter demonstrations organized by DC anti-fascist and anti-racist groups will converge nearby.
According to the only permit issued by the Park Service, pro-Trump protesters will march from Freedom Plaza to the Supreme Court on Saturday afternoon. Rally-goers will also hear from a selection of speakers from different legislatures; former White House assistant Sebastian Gorka; Trump ally Matt Schlapp, who heads the American Conservative Union; and incoming Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Who has openly supported QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory that Trump is leading the fight against a cabal of Satan-worshiping saboteurs who traffick children.
Friday's clashes at Black Lives Matter Plaza were the second time in so many months that self-proclaimed Trump supporters had removed photos of a memorial honoring police-murdered black men and women.
“It's awful because it's a memorial to the people who have died and who haven't gotten justice and to see them stepping on it and doing it carelessly, it's just frustrating,” said Nadine Seiler, 55, who spent weeks has been busy with the fence and the artwork placed there.
In anticipation of Saturday's rallies, Seiler said she has had the most meaningful piece of art on the fence for the past few days "quad zipping" to keep it from being removed. Some activists had supported the idea of temporarily removing pieces of the fence to protect them.
While none of the rally organizers have announced plans to meet at Black Lives Matter Plaza on Saturday, the square has become a flashpoint for those who oppose Trump and those who want to take a stand against D.C.'s liberal activists.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has said city officials are following social media around the planned events and will support “peaceful demonstrations of the First Amendment”. The mayor also warned out-of-town visitors not to bring firearms into town, noting that DC has stricter firearms laws than other parts of the country – and no firearms, with or without a permit, within 300 meters of a protest. can be charged, according to DC law. The Park Service also prohibits weapons from demonstrations.
Videos of a caravan of armed protesters led by Infowars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones began circulating on social media late Thursday as the group made its way through Richmond.
Christopher R. Barron, a spokesman for the Women for America First march, said the group will "welcome all peaceful protesters in support of President Trump," but does not condone violence. Barron declined to comment on the simultaneous pro-Trump rallies scheduled for Saturday because, he said, organizers were not involved in their planning.
The meetings have received the support of Fox News presenter Sean Hannity, as well as more fringe figures, including Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys; white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes, who marched in Charlottesville; Jack Posobiec, who promoted the "Pizzagate" conspiracy that led to a 2016 shooting at Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in D.C .; Scott Presler, a pro-Trump activist who works with the anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America; as well as Jones.
. (tagsToTranslate) Votes (t) Protests and Demonstrations (t) Washington (t) Sean Hannity (t) Donald Trump (t) Presidential Elections (t) Coronavirus (t) Black Lives Matter