In a tweet last week, President Trump foreshadowed a “wild” protest in the District on Jan. 6 — the day Congress formally counts the electoral college votes — and his supporters are determined not to disappoint him.
Conversations about the January gathering have taken off on chat forums used by far-right groups, including Gab, Parler and Telegram. The Proud Boys, members of armed right-wing groups, conspiracy theorists and white supremacists all have pledged to attend.
Women for America First estimates that about 5,000 people will attend the Jan. 6 rally, which it hopes to hold at Freedom Plaza.
Peter Navarro releases 36-page report alleging election fraud 'more than sufficient' to swing victory to Trump https://t.co/D8KrMHnFdK. A great report by Peter. Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2020
The U.S. Park Service has not yet granted the group’s request, although permits are not typically issued until the week of an event.
Organizers had initially requested space at Freedom Plaza to stage a protest after the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, a Park Service official said. But increasing chatter about Jan. 6 prompted the organization to change its plans.
On the event website, a flier for the demonstration says, “the president is calling on us to come back to Washington on Jan. 6 for a big protest — ‘be there, will be wild.’ ”
The event, on a Wednesday, is to begin at noon and run until 5 p.m.
The escalation of Jan. 6 from formality to protest lies in Trump’s refusal to concede his loss to Biden. The 12th Amendment requires Congress to meet in joint session to count the electoral college votes and declare a presidential winner. That session is Jan. 6.
Trump lost the electoral vote 306 to 232, but a handful of his supporters began to suggest that he could make one more effort to overturn the results by getting members of Congress to challenge Biden’s electors at the Jan. 6 meeting.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly urged GOP senators not to object to the election results, though at least one Republican member of the House, Rep. Mo Brooks (Ala.), has said he is considering making such an objection on the basis of allegations of election fraud that have been roundly rejected by state and federal courts, state election officials of both parties and even Trump’s own attorney general.
Experts on far-right movements warn that January’s rallies could bring with them more violence as Trump’s bid to hold onto power takes its last gasps.
“The violence has ramped up quite a bit,” said Heidi Beirich, a founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “What I’m worried about is these street battles getting more fierce and aggressive.”
On Dec. 12, four people were stabbed, one critically, during a chaotic confrontation near Harry’s Bar at 11th and F Streets NW. The bar has become a well-known gathering place for the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist group that the FBI has deemed an extremist organization with ties to white nationalism.
Although police declined to identify the political ideologies of the stabbing victims or the man accused in the incident — against whom prosecutors have declined to pursue charges — several prominent Proud Boys have used social media to show off wounds they said they suffered in the attack.
Several online posts appear to show far-right demonstrators workshopping ways to smuggle guns into the District, where carrying without a permit is prohibited and guns are banned at all protests.
Other posts include talk of violence and increasing frustrations with D.C. police, who prevented Proud Boys from entering Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House to confront anti-Trump demonstrators this month.
After a day of rallies and speeches, groups of men in the Proud Boy colors of black and gold roamed D.C. streets on Dec. 12, searching for counterprotesters to fight.
They attacked passersby and shouted at police officers who formed lines around Black Lives Matter Plaza and tried to separate groups of brawling people.
The leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, told The Washington Post last week that he and a handful of others tore down Black Lives Matter banners from historically Black churches downtown and set them on fire before a raucous, cheering crowd.
A spokesman for D.C. police said that the investigation is continuing and that the incident is considered a potential hate crime.
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