Thousands of Trump supporters rally in DC to protest election before Electoral College formalizes Bidens win – USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – A growing crowd waving American flags and wearing “Make America Great Again” hats gathered Saturday morning in Freedom Plaza in support of President Donald Trump and his unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the presidential election

The rally was organized by Women for America First, a conservative group that organized last month’s “Stop the Steal” rally, which drew tens of thousands of people.

As many as 15,000 people were expected to attend Saturday’s demonstration, according to the group’s permit. Trump tweeted Saturday morning that he was unaware of the event, “but I’ll be seeing them!”

Crowds gathered to listen to speakers before marching to the Supreme Court, which denied an effort Friday to overturn election results in battleground states and prevent them from casting their Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden on Monday.

Many in the crowd didn’t wear masks, despite a mask mandate set by Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser. Organizer Cindy Chafian told the crowd to wash their hands, but mocked COVID-19 precautions like social distancing and mask-wearing. 

Chants of “CNN sucks, Fox News sucks too!” “Four more years!” and “Fight for Trump!” broke out as massive speakers blared pro-Trump songs such as “Real Women Vote For Trump.” 

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Lisa Parry and her husband Richard drove 14 hours from Florida to show their support for Trump and demand transparency from the government. Parry, who wore a “Million MAGA March” sweatshirt, said she doesn’t believe Biden could’ve won the election. 

The night of the election, “I went to bed at 1 o’clock and Trump was ahead. There’s no way,” Parry, a retired nurse said. “I don’t believe it. It’s fakes.”

No allegations of widespread voter fraud have been substantiated, and a few dozen lawsuits raising such allegations have failed. Even Attorney General William Barr has said there is no evidence of fraud that would have affected the outcome of the presidential race.

Cheers broke out and the crowd rushed to catch a glimpse as a group in black and yellow, the attire of the far-right nationalist group Proud Boys, marched down the street next to Freedom Plaza.

Other attendees appeared to support QAnon, the baseless conspiracy theory that the FBI has deemed a domestic terrorist threat. 

Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys, implied he had been invited to the White House on Saturday. But White House Deputy Assistant and Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told USA TODAY Tarrio was merely on a Christmas tour open to the public.

For Trump supporters, the rally is a way to express their disillusionment and anger over the election, Amy Kremer, chair for Women for America First, previously told USA TODAY. She traveled to the nation’s capital as part of a two-week, cross-country bus tour.

“We want him to continue to stay strong and fight to expose this voter fraud and demand transparency and election integrity,” she said. “The second purpose is really to support each other.”

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The rally comes just days before electors from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., meet in their respective capitals to cast votes for president based on the popular votes in each state. Biden won 306 electoral votes and Trump got 232; a presidential candidate needs 270 to win.

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Robin Pressley, 53, of eastern Tennessee, came to the November rally and returned Saturday in pro-Trump attire. She said if the Electoral College formalizes the win for Biden on Monday, they’ll be back in the streets. 

“We’ll be back out here. We’re not going to quit,” she said. “We, the people, are pissed.”

Pressley, who owns a cleaning business, and her husband Greg said they believe the election results still could be overturned although nearly every lawsuit alleging voter fraud has been struck down in court.

“I don’t know how he’s going to do it,” Pressley said. “But God’s gonna take care of things.”

“Trump will be inaugurated on January 20th,” Greg Pressley said. “The last word’s not been said yet.”

Stephanie Liu, a research assistant from New York, came to the rally with Chinese Americans for Trump to protest “election fraud.”

“It’s so obvious … the media was lying,” she said. “That makes America look so bad in front of the whole world.”

Cynthia Brokenshire, Elizabeth Mortimer and Anmarie Kaziamis met on Facebook and carpooled from New Jersey to Washington Saturday morning. They couldn’t attend the previous rally in November but made a point to come Saturday to support the “Stop the Steal” campaign.

“Our democracy is at risk,” Kaziamis said while holding a Trump flag. “I wouldn’t miss this one for the world.”

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Several groups including anti-Trump organization Refuse Fascism and anti-fascist group All Out DC are holding counterprotests at Black Lives Matter Plaza, just a few blocks from the White House. 

To avoid confrontation, organizers of Saturday’s rally told demonstrators to avoid certain hotels and designated parts of Washington as a “no-go zone.”

Skirmishes between protesters and counterprotesters broke out across the city at the November rally. At least 20 people were arrested on a variety of charges, including assault and weapons possession, The Associated Press reported. 

Contributing: Will Carless; Associated Press