Violence after DC ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally

Peaceful protests were once again followed by nighttime clashes.

WaPo (“Multiple people stabbed after thousands gather for pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington“):

Thousands of maskless rallygoers who refuse to accept the results of the election turned downtown Washington into a falsehood-filled spectacle Saturday, two days before the electoral college will make the president’s loss official.

In smaller numbers than their gathering last month, they roamed from the Capitol to the Mall and back again, seeking inspiration from speakers who railed against the Supreme Court, Fox News and President-elect Joe Biden. The crowds cheered for recently pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, marched with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and stood in awe of a flyover from what appeared to be Marine One.

But at night, the scene became violent. At least four people were stabbed near Harry’s Bar at 11th and F streets NW, a gathering point for the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist organization with ties to white nationalism.

The victims were hospitalized and suffered possibly life-threatening injuries, D.C. fire spokesman Doug Buchanan said. It was not immediately clear with which groups the attackers or the injured might have been affiliated.

The violence escalated after an evening of faceoffs with counterprotesters that took place near Harry’s, Black Lives Matter Plaza, Franklin Square, and other spots around downtown.

At first, officers in riot gear successfully kept the two sides apart, even as the groups splintered and roamed. In helmets and bulletproof vests, Proud Boys marched through downtown in militarylike rows, shouting “move out” and “1776!” They became increasingly angry as they wove through streets and alleys, only to find police continuously blocking their course with lines of bikes.

NYT (“4 Stabbed and One Shot as Trump Supporters and Opponents Clash“):

Incensed by a Supreme Court ruling that further dashed President Trump’s hopes of invalidating his November electoral defeat, thousands of his supporters marched in Washington and several state capitals on Saturday to protest what they contended, against all evidence, was a stolen election.

In some places, angry confrontations between protesters and counterprotesters escalated into violence. There were a number of scuffles in the national capital, where four people were stabbed, and the police declared a riot in Olympia, Wash., where one person was shot.

In videos of a clash in Olympia that were posted on social media, a single gunshot can be heard as black-clad counterprotesters move toward members of the pro-Trump group, including one person waving a large Trump flag. After the gunshot, one of the counterprotesters is seen falling to the ground, and others call for help. In one video, a man with a gun can be seen running from the scene and putting on a red hat.

Chris Loftis, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, said that two people were in custody in connection with the episode but that specific details about the shooting were not yet clear, including the condition of the person who was shot.

State and federal courts have rejected dozens of lawsuits by Mr. Trump’s allies seeking to challenge the election results, but the pointed refusal by the Supreme Court on Friday to hear a case filed by the attorney general of Texas loomed the largest yet. By foreclosing one of the last legal avenues Mr. Trump had to potentially block Mr. Biden from succeeding him on Inauguration Day, it left many of his partisans casting angrily about for answers.

Trump flags dotted the air above Freedom Plaza in Washington, where demonstrators — including many members of the far-right Proud Boys group — chanted “four more years!” and vowed not to recognize Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the president-elect.

CNN (“Several people were stabbed and 23 arrested as ‘Stop the Steal’ protesters and counter-protesters clash in Washington, DC“):

At least four people were stabbed Saturday night amid post-election protests in Washington, according to the DC Metropolitan Police Department’s public affairs office.

DC Fire and EMS transported eight people from the protest area since around 7 p.m.: the four stabbing victims, who were said to be in critical condition, according to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office; two police officers with non-life-threatening injuries and two people with minor injuries, the public information office said.

At least 23 people have been arrested during the “Stop the Steal” protests, the mayor’s office said.

Traditionally Republican-leaning Fox News (“Mayhem in Washington, DC, as Trump supporters, opponents clash; at least 4 stabbed, 23 arrested“) is reporting it pretty much the same way:

Chaos erupted in Washington, D.C., on Saturday night, hours after two pro-Trump rallies ended. Groups of Proud Boys and Antifa activists clashed under cover of darkness, with police repeatedly forcing them apart amid reports of brawls and stabbings.

At least four stabbings occurred near a bar that served as a gathering spot for the Proud Boys, according to the Washington Post. The victims were hospitalized, possibly with life-threatening injuries, a D.C. Fire Department spokesman told the newspaper.

It wasn’t immediately clear which groups the attackers and victims were affiliated with, the report said.

As of 9 p.m. ET, 23 people had been arrested, including 10 charged with misdemeanor assault, six with assaulting a police officer and four will rioting, FOX 5 of Washington reported. One suspect was carrying an illegal stun gun.

At least two D.C. police officers were hospitalized with moderate injuries, the report added.

[…]

Around midday, Trump flew over the crowd as Marine One carried him from the White House for his trip to the Army-Navy football game at West Point, N.Y., according to The Associated Press.

“Wow!” the president tweeted before leaving the White House. “Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal. Didn’t know about this, but I’ll be seeing them! #MAGA.”

The outlier, not surprisingly, is Newsmax (“Thousands of Trump Supporters Rally in Washington“):

Thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump returned to Washington for weekend rallies to back his desperate efforts to subvert the election that he lost to Joe Biden.

Sporadic fights broke out between pro-Trump and anti-Trump demonstrators after sundown Saturday. WRC-TV reported that four people were taken to a hospital with stab wounds, and the Metropolitan Police Department told the station that 23 people were arrested.

The gatherings of mostly unmasked Trump loyalists were intended as a show of force just two days before the Electoral College meets to formally elect Biden as the 46th president. Trump, whose term will end Jan. 20, refuses to concede, while clinging to baseless claims of fraud that have been rejected by state and federal courts, and Friday by the Supreme Court.

Just reading the story on their website—which I likely wouldn’t have even as a True Believer given the banal headline—the coverage is pretty straightforward. They acknowledge that Trump lost the election and that violence occurred. They’re less forward-leaning that the Post and CNN in describing the situation and laying blame on one side but it’s pretty much a straight news account.

Alas, one would navigate to the story from this front page:

The banner headline is from Dick Morris—who has apparently switched sides again—seeking to delegitimate a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court and the top bullets beneath it are trying to stoke up support to invalidate the election through a declaration of martial law and yet more baseless claims of election fraud.

The natural tendency is to compare the violence from these rallies with those in the much larger and more widespread Black Lives Matter protests. In both cases, on can reasonably argue that peaceful protests by citizens simply exercising their First Amendment rights are being overshadowed by violence attributable to outside agitators spoiling for trouble.

While that’s fair enough, the outside agitators in both cases are the same: various white nationalist groups and Antifa types. And, it’s especially noteworthy that there have been explicit and implicit calls for violence from Trump and his top supporters in a way that was not the case for the BLM protests.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    They acknowledge that Trump lost the election and that violence occurred.

    That’s going to earn them Anathema status PDQ.

    2
  2. Mikey says:

    trying to stoke up support to invalidate the election through a declaration of martial law

    A man I’ve known for over 30 years–a fellow veteran, with whom I served in Desert Storm, who has unfortunately become one of the most extreme Trump supporters I know–yesterday expressed his wish for a military coup to keep Trump in power.

    This is where Trump’s supporters are going. They simply want subjugation of the majority by the minority.

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  3. drj says:

    The natural tendency is to compare the violence from these rallies with those in the much larger and more widespread Black Lives Matter protests.

    That may be a “natural tendency,” but it is also pretty dumb.

    One group of protestors is demanding fewer instances of police committing murder on the streets, the other group is demanding that the votes of their fellow citizens be taken away.

    We do not HAVE to pretend that every claim regarding the underlying facts is equally credible.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    One group of protestors is demanding fewer instances of police committing murder on the streets, the other group is demanding that the votes of their fellow citizens be taken away.

    The comparison is simply that peaceful protests—which both were/are—have attracted violence at their fringes, usually after nightfall. I don’t think the underlying grievance is relevant. By definition, protestors are articulating an outsider view; otherwise, they wouldn’t need to protest.

    7
  5. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    If that doesn’t do it, this will:

    “Trump…refuses to concede, while clinging to baseless claims of fraud that have been rejected by state and federal courts, and Friday by the Supreme Court.”

    Baseless claims of fraud“???? Yowza. That leaves Trump with OANN.

    3
  6. charon says:

    @Mikey:

    They simply want subjugation of the majority by the minority.

    They don’t see it that way. They see themselves as the Good Guys, the Real Americans holding off the evildoer Godless hordes.

    4
  7. Teve says:

    @Mikey:

    A man I’ve known for over 30 years–a fellow veteran, with whom I served in Desert Storm, who has unfortunately become one of the most extreme Trump supporters I know–yesterday expressed his wish for a military coup to keep Trump in power.

    That just rung a bell, something I haven’t thought about in 20 years. Back in the early 90s I had a relative who listened to Rush Limbaugh and various “anti-globalist” “anti-New World Order” radio shows, and he became convinced that the Clintons were murdering people and Bill was going to use the Y2K disaster to declare martial law and put everybody in UN concentration camps. He told me that the only hope to save America was a military coup against the evil Clintons.

    4
  8. charon says:

    @James Joyner:

    By definition, protestors are articulating an outsider view; otherwise, they wouldn’t need to protest.

    Not necessarily an “outsider” view, just a view being suppressed by the PTB. (Note that we have a minority regime currently running the country).

    5
  9. drj says:

    @charon:

    Not necessarily an “outsider” view…

    The entire frame of “outsider view” is inherently misleading.

    While “Police shouldn’t kill unarmed black men in the street” may be a so-called “outsider view,” it is neither extreme nor morally repugnant.

    By contrast, “The government may invalidate your vote if the sitting president doesn’t like the outcome of an election,” is both.

    It is silly to compare protests that demand that state will be bound by the prevailing laws with protests that demand that the state uses the inherent threat of state violence to take away someone else’s political rights.

    Even if it isn’t the main thrust of the article, the comparison is hateful.

    16
  10. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think the underlying grievance is relevant.

    I agree James. These thugs are people who want to fight and kill, while feeling some kind of bizarre need to align themselves with a higher cause. In reality though, the cause is a mere convenience and judging thugs by the cause they purport to support is a futile exercise.

    7
  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Yep. I have always believed that what comes first is the itch to do violence. Then comes the excuse.

    14
  12. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: There’s zero evidence of thuggishness at the protest itself. This was apparently a clash between the Proud Boys and unnamed other parties (and police) at a bar miles away and hours later.

    And, again, white nationalist groups are likely a prime part of the violence in both instances.

    5
  13. Paine says:

    Dick Morris. The guy is a real piece of work…

    2
  14. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    The entire rally was about overthrowing the results of a legitimate election. Everyone present is a ‘thug’.

    10
  15. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    There’s zero evidence of thuggishness at the protest itself. This was apparently a clash between the Proud Boys and unnamed other parties (and police) at a bar miles away and hours later.

    Not sure if you contesting what I said or adding to it so, FWIW, I accept what you say. The vast majority of the protesters were just making their views known and whatever I think of those views, it’s part of American discourse. The point I was trying to make is that there are actual thugs out there, and while they may nominally align themselves with a cause, it’s only incidental.

    1
  16. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    And, again, white nationalist groups are likely a prime part of the violence in both instances.

    White nationalists encouraged by this administration.

    But, with BLM, the vast majority of the violence was caused and perpetrated by the police. At least that was the case in Seattle, where I was following events closely.

    3
  17. Blue Galangal says:

    @MarkedMan: Looking at the video from last night, where a group of about 15-20 PBs were beating up an unarmed couple, the couple was repeatedly just trying to run away from them and they kept being attacked/tripped/punched by people who were carrying mace, wearing body armor, etc. They were thugs looking for an excuse to hit people who weren’t wearing yellow, basically. The PBs stabbed 4 people last night. How many have been arrested? 0.

    When you read the WaPo article about the MAGA march yesterday, you had people who drove from Michigan and Indiana to participate, and who said they were doing Godly work and they would continue until Trump says it’s over. As long as the GOP stokes and allows this to be stoked, these thugs will continue to provoke violence.

    And they’ll get away with it because they’re white-full stop.

    5
  18. Monala says:

    @Blue Galangal: there was a woman among those who attacked the couple, out on bail in Oregon. She had gotten permission from the judge to leave the state to participate in the Proud Boys rally(!!!).

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Paine: He’s a political consultant. He’s on the side of whoever pays him. Easy-peasy.

    1
  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: There’s zero evidence of thuggishness at the protest itself.

    I’ve been to a few protests over the years. The peaceful protesters came dressed in street clothes and the closest thing to a weapon they carried was an offensive placard.

    I looked at several videos of these “peaceful protestors” James. I saw body armor. I saw knee pads and shin guards. I saw shields. I saw clubs (disguised as “flagpoles”). I’ve read credible reports of these selfsame protestors using mace, stun guns, and knives after dark.

    You need to get out in the real world more James. Just because they didn’t engage in violent behavior except under cover of dark didn’t mean they weren’t thugs when the sun was shining.

    7
  21. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Even now, James just can’t bring himself to condemn the Trump thugs without a reference to bothsiderism.

    5
  22. Scott F. says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    The most thuggish behavior during the Jericho March came from the speaker’s platform.

    1
  23. KM says:

    @Modulo Myself :

    The entire rally was about overthrowing the results of a legitimate election. Everyone present is a ‘thug’.

    THIS. These people are demanding a coup – either a political or violent one, they don’t really care which. They’re not “protesters” or airing grievances according to 1A; they are insurrectionists actively committing sedition against the government and the media is pretending it’s just sign-waving. Imagine if you will that whole crowd of white, white, Whities but brown and black folks demanding the election be overthrown for Biden had Trump won. How quickly do you think the blood would have hit the streets and screams of treason filled FOX’s air time?

    Other countries are watching us ignore a coup building like you stare at 30 car pileup. They can see exactly what’s happening and can’t believe we’re just…. writing it off as some angry losers venting. They recognize those jackboots; just because they’re currently losing doesn’t mean they can’t do damage on the way out or try again later.