WASHINGTON (AFP) – Thousands of die-hard United States (US) President Donald Trump supporters rallied for a last stand on Saturday in Washington, chanting “four more years” and blaming fraud for an election defeat that will force the president to vacate the White House after just one term.
Trump himself made a drive-past in his armoured motorcade, on his way to play golf, smiling through his limousine window to wild cheers and signs saying “Best prez ever” and “Trump 2020: Keep America Great”.
“We wanted to show our support, we’re feeling they are trying to steal the election,” said Pam Ross, who drove eight hours from Ohio to join the rally, referring to the president’s political opponents.
The Republican incumbent is sticking to discredited claims of mass fraud and claiming he defeated President-elect Joe Biden in the November 3 vote, marking another unprecedented challenge to US democratic norms as his time in office runs down. Later Saturday, he took to Twitter with a series of tweets and retweets that included claims of voting machines potentially being hacked and complaints about news networks’ coverage of the rally.
Twitter slapped labels on at least eight of the posts as containing “disputed” information.
At least 10,000 people – few wearing masks – massed on the city’s Freedom Plaza before marching to the Supreme Court in a raucous atmosphere reminiscent of a Trump campaign rally.
“President Trump deserves to see who’s behind him, he deserves to feel the love,” Kris Napolitana, from Baltimore, told AFP. “I believe that he’s going to win when all the fraud and cheating is found out.”
With right-wing militia group the Proud Boys among those attending, a large security presence was deployed to prevent clashes with anti-Trump events outside the Supreme Court.
As night fell, police formed lines on either side of a street leading to the White House, separating hundreds of rival protesters.
“We’re just holding back people who want to fight,” one officer told AFP.
After dark, groups of Trump supporters and counter-protesters clashed on the streets, scuffling and throwing punches, video posted by The Washington Post showed.
At least 20 people were arrested during the day, reports said, including four for firearm violations and one for assault on a police officer.