WASHINGTON — Thousands of people clad in red, white and blue rallied and marched in support of outgoing President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to protest supposed “voter fraud” in the 2020 presidential election.
The rally – advertised by several names including Million MAGA March, Stop the Steal and March for Trump – started at Freedom Plaza, where the crowd’s chants of “four more years” and “stop the steal” largely drowned out event speakers.
The group then began marching to the Capitol to protest “voter fraud,” to “show support for our President” and “demand a free and fair election,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. Trump has refused to concede and leveled baseless allegations of voter fraud to falsely claim the election was stolen from him.
Most of the participants were not wearing face masks, which prevent the spread of COVID-19. The massive crowd, filled with red Make America Great Again hats and massive flags with Trump’s name, was an unusual site in the nation’s capital, a liberal city.
Many in the crowd traveled from across the U.S. to attend the event, some from Texas, North Carolina, Indiana, Wisconsin, New York and New Jersey.
Tracy Lavis, wearing a red Trump flag as a cape, waved a large American flag in the square with others who traveled with her from Michigan for the event.
“I needed to be here. We all need to show our president some support,” Lavis said, explaining she took an overnight bus to get to D.C. for the rally. “He needs it. He needs us. He’s been rung through the ringer since day one.”
Lavis, like other supporters, railed against the integrity of the election and the media declaring former vice president Joe Biden the victor. “It’s not fair. Every legal vote should be counted,” she added.
Jeremy Cleary and his mother, Lois, drove from Pennsylvania to support the president. “This is far from over,” Jeremy Cleary said of Trump. “He’s still in it.”
He noted that he hadn’t seen any violence and said he hopes that continues.
“No matter what happens with the election, I’m hoping we can all come together after,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in the American people that we can do this.”
While few counter-protesters were spotted near the event, several D.C. locals held up signs reading “TRUMP LOST.” The small group attracted the attention of some Trump supporters, who laughed at the group and yelled things like “you’re a joke” and “the election was rigged.”
At Black Lives Matter plaza, dozens of people with the left-wing group called Refuse Fascism held posters and chanted “you’re illegitimate,” according to social media posts.
Although the rally is not considered an extremist event, it has caused a buzz in right-wing circles on social media including Parler and Telegram, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Much like the social media site Gab, Parler has quickly attracted the extremist crowd in addition to self-proclaimed center-right conservatives.
Oren Segal, vice president for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told USA TODAY he doesn’t believe the event will be a public safety threat. “I would say the D.C. march is kind of a physical manifestation of online platforms like Parler where people are introduced to more extreme concepts,” Segal said. “That’s the danger.”
Background on today’s rallies:Trump supporters plan rallies in Washington DC, experts warn extremists may attend
‘Abuse of the rule of law’:1,000 ex-judges, attorneys slam Trump’s false claims of voter fraud
Among the growing crowd Saturday, there were several massive 20 or 30 foot flags that supporters held out to be spotted from above. “TRUMP 2020 LAW AND ORDER” read one blue and black flag.
Merchandise carts were sprinkled on nearly every corner around the plaza, with merchants yelling “buy your stop the steal T-shirts.” Some passed out posters with Trump being depicted as Superman. One man was attempting to sell Trump face masks, screaming to the crowd, “keep your germs to yourself!”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed on Twitter that the crowd size was “more than one million marchers,” but reporters on the scene estimated that there were “thousands” of people at the rally.
Trump indicated Friday that he may stop by the rally, but he left the White House early Saturday to go golfing. As the presidential motorcade headed out to Pennsylvania Avenue and did a circuit of Freedom Plaza, hundreds of Trump supporters lining both sides of the streets applauded, cheered, waved and whistled, chanting “USA! USA!”, “We want Trump! We want Trump!” and “Four more years! Four more years!”
Earlier this week D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Metropolitan Police Department said they were monitoring the events but would not provide a crowd estimate. Police released an advisory noting some roads will be closed and parking will be restricted throughout downtown D.C. and reminding the public that they are prohibited from carrying a firearm within 1,000 feet of any protest, including those who have a concealed carry permit.
A week ago Saturday, after states spent days counting ballots, several news outlets projected Biden to be the winner of the 2020 presidential election. USA TODAY has not found any evidence of widespread voter fraud. See more below: