Tensions flare in Washington as Trump supporters rally against election results
Protests also held in states where Trump campaign has questioned vote counts
Conservative groups alleging without evidence that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden stole the U.S. election gathered for protests across the country on Saturday, including one in Washington, D.C., that turned violent at times as police broke up sporadic clashes after dark.
Organizers with Stop the Steal, linked to pro-Trump operative Roger Stone, and church groups urged supporters to participate in "Jericho Marches" and prayer rallies.
But groups of pro-Trump Proud Boys protesters and Antifa counter-protesters brawled in downtown Washington on Saturday night. Police moved in quickly to separate them, using pepper spray on members of both sides, Reuters witnesses said.
About 200 members of Proud Boys, a violent far-right group, joined the march near the Trump Hotel. Many wore combat fatigues black and yellow shirts and ballistic vests, carried helmets and flashed hand signals used by white nationalists.
Earlier, police in riot gear and on bicycles kept the opposing demonstrators apart by blocking streets. After dark fell, the protesters splintered into smaller groups to roam the streets in search of their rivals.
Protests were also held in other communities around the country, including Atlanta — the capital of Georgia, a state where Trump's campaign has sought to overturn Biden's election victory — and Mobile, Ala., according to local news coverage.
Local media in Olympia, Wash., reported that one person was shot and three arrested after clashes between pro- and anti-Trump protest groups.
Flynn speaks to supporters
More than 50 federal and state court rulings have upheld Biden's victory over Trump. The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected a long-shot lawsuit filed by Texas and backed by Trump seeking to throw out voting results in four states.
"Whatever the ruling was yesterday, everybody take a deep deep breath," retired army general Mike Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, told protesters in front of the Supreme Court, referring to the court's refusal to hear the Texas case.
Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with the former Russian ambassador, spoke in his first public address since Trump pardoned him on Nov. 24.
"My charge to you is to go back to where you are from" and make demands, Flynn told the small crowd, without being more specific. The U.S. Constitution is "not about collective liberty, it is about individual liberties, and they designed it that way."
Trump has refused to concede defeat, alleging that he was denied victory by massive fraud.
On his way to Andrews Air Force Base and then the Army-Navy football game in New York, Trump made three passes in the Marine One helicopter over the cheering protesters.
'Trump is being railroaded'
Trump's supporters carrying flags and signs made their way in small knots toward Congress and the Supreme Court through Washington's city centre, which was shut off to traffic by police vehicles and dump trucks.
Few of the protesters wore masks, despite soaring COVID-19 deaths and cases, defying a mayoral directive for them to be worn outside. Several thousand people rallied in Washington, fewer than during a similar protest last month.
As some in the crowd echoed far right conspiracy theories about the election, a truck-pulled trailer flew Trump 2020 flags and a sign reading "Trump Unity" while blaring the country song God Bless the U.S.A.
"It's clear the election has been stolen," said Mark Paul Jones, of Delaware Water Gap, Pa., who sported a tricorn, a hat associated with the American Revolution, as he walked toward the Supreme Court with his wife.
"Trump is being railroaded out of office," he said, adding that Biden won with the collaboration of the Supreme Court, the FBI, Department of Justice and the CIA. The Supreme Court "didn't even take the time to hear the case," Jones said.
Eddy Miller of Philadelphia, who was selling Trump campaign T-shirts, said he was sure "there was fraud despite what I see on the news" about court rulings striking down fraud allegations.
Some protesters referred to the biblical miracle of the battle of Jericho, in which the walls of the city crumbled after soldiers and priests blowing horns marched around it.
In his speech, Flynn told the protesters they were all standing inside Jericho after breaching its walls.
Ron Hazard of Morristown, N.J., was one of five people who stopped at the Justice Department to blow shofars to bring down "the spiritual" walls "of corruption."
"We believe what is going on in this county is an important thing. It's a balance between biblical values and anti-biblical values," he said.
His small group, including one member who wore a Jewish prayer shawl known as a tallit, are Christians "who love the Jewish people. We love Israel," he said.