The rallies, which include a Women for Trump event, a “Million MAGA March” and a “Stop the Steal” demonstration — which falsely asserts that voter fraud cost Trump the election — will begin Saturday morning in and around Freedom Plaza.
The pro-Trump rallies have garnered support from Fox News host Sean Hannity as well as more fringe figures, including Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys; self-described “American Nationalist” and social media agitator Nicholas Fuentes; conservative provocateur Jack Posobiec, who promoted the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory tied to the 2016 shooting at D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong; Scott Presler, a pro-Trump activist who works with anti-Muslim group ACT for America; and Infowars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Jones has said he is leading a “Stop the Steal” caravan from Texas that is expected to arrive Friday night in the nation’s capital.
Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller responded to a tweet Thursday in support of the rally, saying, “Love the outpouring of support for @realDonaldTrump!”
A handful of anti-Trump rallies have also been announced, including one near Union Station organized by local activists and a protest involving Refuse Fascism D.C., which has said it intends to stand against “the Trump regime's attempts to steal the election.”
Neither D.C. police nor the National Park Service have issued permits for the demonstrations, although the Park Service is processing a permit application from Women for America First, a pro-Trump group that has advertised “Stop the Steal” rallies on its social media pages. It estimated in a permit application that about 50 people would attend its event.
The Park Service regularly works with groups that do not obtain permits before an event to register for one on-site and, if necessary, to move to a safer location. It was not clear whether the Park Police or Park Service had plans to approach demonstrators Saturday.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said city officials have been monitoring social media chatter around the planned events.
“We continue to follow those activities and be prepared,” Bowser said at a news conference this week. “Our police chief will have a similar posture this weekend as he did last week. We will be there to support peaceful First Amendment demonstrations.”
Bowser warned out-of-town visitors against bringing firearms to the city, noting D.C. has more strict firearm laws than other parts of the country. Gun owners are allowed to carry a concealed weapon with the proper license but carrying a gun openly is prohibited. It is also illegal to possess a magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
D.C. police announced road closures and parking restrictions throughout downtown.
Beginning 6 a.m. Saturday, Constitution Avenue will be closed between 18th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. On the other side of the Mall, Independence Avenue will be closed from 14th Street to Ohio Avenue SW. Several main thoroughfares, including New York Avenue and G, H, I and K streets, will be shut down from 9th Street NW to 18th Street NW.
D.C. police were put on high alert last week with fears of unrest and violent protests that many cities expected could follow Election Day. Although those fears didn’t materialize, many downtown D.C. businesses remained boarded up through the weekend — and the raucous celebrations that followed Biden’s victory.
The mayor said she is still urging businesses to remove the boards, even with the Saturday rallies in mind.
Local activists are taking precautions as they prepare for Saturday, including efforts to safeguard the living monument at Black Lives Matter Plaza that has grown on and around the tall chain-link fence encircling Lafayette Square.
Last month, a group of Trump supporters in D.C. for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings tore down a number of the signs. Activists rebuilt the memorial the next day, and several have been standing guard since.
Past protests in Washington that have featured white nationalists and far-right provocateurs have been dwarfed by counterdemonstrators.
A year after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville turned deadly when a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, a small handful of white supremacists came to D.C. for the “Unite the Right 2” rally. Organizers had hoped hundreds would join them, but about three dozen attended. They were drowned out by crowds of counterprotesters, who chanted and danced in the street.
Last year, hundreds of D.C. police officers kept far-right agitators, including members of the Proud Boys, and left-wing anti-fascist protesters clad in black from clashing during dueling rallies at Freedom Plaza and nearby Pershing Park. Though the groups interacted at times during the July 2019 demonstration, the protests did not turn violent. The crowd of counterprotesters far outnumbered the right-wing demonstrators.
Christopher Rodriguez, D.C.’s director of homeland security and emergency management, said in a news conference Thursday that officials are expecting a relatively small turnout at Saturday’s rally spread out among about a dozen groups.
Julie Zauzmer and Katie Mettler contributed to this report.