WASHINGTON — Thousands of people clad in red, white and blue were gathering at a rally in support of outgoing President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, to protest supposed “voter fraud” in the 2020 presidential election.
The rallies – advertised by several names including Million MAGA March, Stop the Steal and March for Trump – were planned to start at Freedom Plaza to protest “voter fraud,” to “show support for our President” and “demand a free and fair election,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. Trump has refused to concede and leveled baseless allegations of voter fraud to falsely claim the election was stolen from him.
Police vehicles and large construction trucks blocked many streets around the plaza and the White House on Saturday morning, but that didn’t stop planned rally-goers. One woman blasted rock music from her car and held up a poster of Trump’s face. Others wearing American flags as capes walked several blocks toward the rallies.
Attendees – many not wearing face masks, which prevent the spread of COVID-19 – shouted “Trump 2020!” and “stop the steal.” The massive crowd, filled with red Make America Great Again hats and massive flags with Trump’s name, was an unusual site in the nation’s capital, a liberal city.
Merchandise carts were sprinkled on nearly every corner around the plaza, with merchants yelling “buy your stop the steal T-shirts.” Some passed out posters with Trump being depicted as Superman. One man was attempting to sell Trump face masks, screaming to the crowd, “keep your germs to yourself!”
On Friday, Trump indicated on Twitter that he may stop by the rally, but he left the White House early Saturday to go golfing. As the presidential motorcade headed out to Pennsylvania Avenue and did a circuit of Freedom Plaza, hundreds of Trump supporters lining both sides of the streets applauded, cheered, waved and whistled, chanting “USA! USA!”, “We want Trump! We want Trump!” and “Four more years! Four more years!”
Trump supporters vastly outnumbered counter-protesters. Dozens of people with the left-wing group called Refuse Fascism rallied at Black Lives Matter plaza Saturday morning, holding posters and chanting “you’re illegitimate,” according to social media posts.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed on Twitter that the crowd size was “more than one million marchers,” but reporters on the scene estimated that there were “thousands” of people at the rally.
Meanwhile, earlier this week D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Metropolitan Police Department said they’re monitoring the events but would not provide a crowd estimate. Police released an advisory noting some roads will be closed and parking will be restricted throughout downtown D.C. and reminding the public that they are prohibited from carrying a firearm within 1,000 feet of any protest, including those who have a concealed carry permit.
The only permit application approved for a Trump-related event Saturday is from Cindy Chafian with Women for America First, who estimated Friday that 10,000 people will attend. Amy Kremer, chair for Women for America First, said her organization is not coordinating with any of the other groups planning simultaneous events.
Although the rallies are not considered extremist events, they have caused a buzz in right-wing circles on social media including Parler and Telegram, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Much like the social media site Gab, Parler has quickly attracted the extremist crowd in addition to self-proclaimed center-right conservatives.
Oren Segal, vice president for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told USA TODAY he doesn’t believe the event will be a public safety threat.
“I would say the D.C. march is kind of a physical manifestation of online platforms like Parler where people are introduced to more extreme concepts,” Segal said. “That’s the danger.”
Among the growing crowd Saturday, there were several massive 20 or 30 foot flags that supporters held out to be spotted from above. “TRUMP 2020 LAW AND ORDER” read one blue and black flag.
Tracy Lavis, wearing a red Trump flag as a cape, waved a large American flag in the square with others who traveled with her from Michigan for the event.
“I needed to be here. We all need to show our president some support,” Lavis said, explaining she took an overnight bus to get to D.C. for the rally. “He needs it. He needs us. He’s been rung through the ringer since day one.”
Lavis, like other supporters, railed against the integrity of the election and the media declaring Joe Biden the victor. “It’s not fair. Every legal vote should be counted,” she added.
Many in the crowd traveled from across the U.S. to attend the event, some from Wisconsin, New York and New Jersey.
Jeremy Cleary and his mother, Lois, drove from Pennsylvania to support the president. “This is far from over,” Jeremy Cleary said of Trump. “He’s still in it.”
He noted that he hadn’t seen any violence and said he hopes that continues.
“No matter what happens with the election, I’m hoping we can all come together after,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in the American people that we can do this.”
A week ago Saturday, after states spent days counting ballots, several news outlets projected Joe Biden to be the winner of the 2020 presidential election. USA TODAY has not found any evidence of widespread voter fraud. See more below: