Organizers expect as many as 15,000 of President Donald Trump’s supporters to arrive in the nation’s capital Saturday – just days before Electoral College votes are cast – to protest alleged voter fraud in the Nov. 3 presidential election, an unfounded claim also pushed by Trump.
Women for America First, a group of conservative women that organized last month’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington that drew tens of thousands of people, was granted a permit from the National Park Service on Friday.
Pro-Trump participants will gather at Freedom Plaza and march to the Supreme Court of the United States, according to the permit. Speakers include South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, former Trump administration national security adviser Mike Flynn, and ex-Trump aide Sebastian Gorka.
Electors from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., meet in their respective state capitals Monday to formally cast votes for president based on the popular votes in each state. President-elect Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes and Trump stands at 232; a presidential candidate needs 270 of these votes to win.
Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia legally mandate electors vote in accordance with the popular vote, but “faithless” electors have voted for someone other than their candidate. None have ever affected the outcome of the election.
The demonstration is a way for Trump supporters to express their disillusionment and anger over the election, said Amy Kremer, chair for Women for America First, who is traveling to the nation’s capital as part of a two-week, cross-country bus tour.
“We want him to continue to stay strong and fight to expose this voter fraud and demand transparency and election integrity,” she said. “The second propose is really to support each other.”
Attorney General William Barr said last week the Justice Department has not found evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the vote. A national coalition of election security officials said last month there was no evidence any voting system was compromised and described the election as “the most secure in American history.”
“There’s no evidence to support the contention or the allegation that there’s been widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election,” said David Levine, elections integrity fellow at the nonpartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy. He noted that the majority of lawsuits the Trump team has filed in states have failed.
“What I am more concerned about is that these kinds of events contribute to a broader mis- or disinformation campaign that undermines voter confidence in elections and creates fissures in our democracy,” he said.
Levine added that more work needs to be done to boost voter confidence in election integrity and to protect election officials who may be targeted if they are perceived as contributing to a candidate’s loss.
The goal of the rally appears to be an attempt to change some of the electors’ minds and cause “disruption and chaos,” according to Angelo Carusone, president of the left-leaning media watchdog group Media Matters for America. Carusone said the rally turnout could also provide insight into what to expect from right-wing organizers under the Biden administration.
“The external goal and ostensibly sort of purpose of this is to have a show of force in some meaningful way right when the electors from the Electoral College come to D.C. to cast their votes,” he said. “The internal goal is to just keep the keep engagement going and to keep their membership together.”
The permit estimates upward of 15,000 people will gather on Dec. 11 and 12 in support of Trump, a similar figure than the tens of thousands who turned out in November.
“I would not be surprised if this next march is larger than the original one,” Kremer said.
However, turnout could be much lower than the previous event in part because it was not as heavily advertised initially in right-wing circles, said Jared Holt, a visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab who focuses on domestic extremism.
“We are seeing this Stop the Steal movement is already starting to dwindle at least in its digital footprint and that appears to be translating to rallies,” he said.
The National Parks Service has also granted a permit to Alex Stoval for a separate rally for “election integrity and 2nd Amendment rights” associated with the Stop the Steal movement that is expected to draw 500 to the Sylvan Theater.
Several groups including anti-Trump organization Refuse Fascism and anti-fascist group All Out DC have already announced they will again hold counterprotests. Refuse Fascism is planning to rally in Black Lives Matter plaza.
“We are rallying to stand up against the regime in power and the fascist mobilization,” she said.
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Organizers of the pro-Trump rally acknowledged the potential for counterprotests on their permit application, specifically mentioning Black Lives Matter and Antifa.
“Obviously we’ve seen that anyone anti trump will attack us,” Cindy Chafian of Women for America First wrote in the application. “We will make sure to have a plan in place to ensure the safety of attendees.”
At the mid-November rally, skirmishes between protesters and counterprotesters broke out across the city. At least 20 people were arrested on a variety of charges, including assault and weapons possession, The Associated Press reported. One stabbing was reported, two police officers were injured and several firearms were also recovered by police.
Kristen Metzger, a spokesperson for the D.C. police, confirmed police will be present at the demonstration. The department released a traffic advisory with road closures will be released ahead of the event.
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Carusone said several chapters of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group known for inciting violence, are not only planning to attend as they have before but said counterprotesters need to be aware that Proud Boys seek to antagonize counterdemonstrators to create a “pretext for self-defense.”
“Likelihood for violence is actually more acute than it was last time largely because of who’s really organizing it,” Carusone said.
Contributing: The Associated Press; Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump supporters plan DC rally to ‘demand transparency’ before Electoral College vote