WASHINGTON – Thousands of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump returned to Washington on Saturday for rallies in support of his desperate efforts to overturn the election he lost to Joe Biden. They applauded as Trump flew over the Marine One helicopter as he left town for the Army-Navy football game in West Point, New York.
The mostly unmasked Trump faithful rallies were conceived as a show of force just two days before the constituency convened to officially elect Biden as the 46th president. Trump, whose term ends on Jan.20, refuses to concede, while clinging to baseless fraud claims that were dismissed by state and federal courts, and the Supreme Court on Friday.
Trump a tweeté his apparent surprise on Saturday morning at rallies, publicly known for weeks: “Wow! Thousands of people are forming in Washington (DC) for Stop the Steal. I didn’t know about it, but I’ll see them! .MAGA ”
Trump left the White House around noon for the trip to the US Military Academy, and as Marine One passed over a rally on the National Mall, cheers rose up.
Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser recently pardoned by Trump, was speaking from the stage at the time.
“It’s pretty cool. Imagine being able to jump in a helicopter and take a joyous ride around Washington, ”said Flynn, whose pardon erased his conviction for lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation.
During a pro-Trump protest in Washington a month ago, Trump delighted his supporters when he passed in his motorcade on their way to his Virginia golf club.
The protest, which drew 10,000 to 15,000 people in the capital, ended with scattered clashes between Trump loyalists and local activists near Black Lives Matter Plaza, near the White House.
Police took more action on Saturday to separate the two sides, closing a wide swath of the city center to traffic and completely limiting Black Lives Matter Plaza. One block away, about 150 anti-Trump protesters gathered, determined to protect the space. Small groups of Trump supporters who entered the area were verbally raped.
A group of about 50 men dressed in black and yellow from the far-right fascist group the Proud Boys surrounded the perimeter. Police held them two blocks from the anti-Trump rally.
The Proud Boys chanted vulgar slogans and at one point they started to sing “Jingle Bells”. They had apparently been ordered not to engage with rowdies. A man who was speaking to people was yelled at and said “Don’t interact!” ”
A larger contingent of Proud Boys then gathered on the National Mall, in preparation for the pro-Trump rally stage but keeping a distance. The group had a more visible presence than during the demonstration on November 14.
The assembly at the mall, called the “Jericho March,” was described on its website as a “prayer rally” with speakers “praying that the walls of corruption and voter fraud come down “.
A separate rally was held in downtown Freedom Plaza. Organizers appeared determined to avoid confrontations, telling protesters ahead of time to avoid certain hotels and marking off large parts of downtown Washington as a “no-go zone.”
Sylvia Huff came from Gloucester, Virginia to show her support for Trump. She said the legal defeats, even Friday’s Supreme Court ruling, had not shaken her belief that Trump had won the election.
“I think the courts were also on the move,” she said. The Supreme Court, where three of the nine justices were appointed by Trump, “was just afraid of a political backlash,” she said.
Among the speakers was Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump adviser, who urged protesters not to give up even after Friday’s Supreme Court ruling. He said he wanted to send Trump a video and held up his phone, calling on the flag-waving crowd to chant “Stop the Steal.”