Supporters of President Donald Trump have used Facebook to plan a plethora of so-called "Trump Train" caravans—some of which are expected to pass through or end at polling sites—around the United States on Election Day, a development that experts say raises concerns about election security, voter intimidation, and the potential for "violent confrontations."
After investigating Facebook posts and talking with event organizers, Reuters reported on Tuesday that "several public itineraries include plans to drive past, or through, polling locations," despite the fact that "state and federal laws make voter intimidation illegal, and many states have laws... against campaigning on or near polling stations."
Michael Greenberger, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security and an adviser to officials on security at polling places, told Reuters that "disruption [on November 3] is going to be the kind of thing that we haven't seen in our prior federal elections."
"There's nobody that can stop us," said Mark F., one organizer who the news outlet interviewed. He planned for a "caravan of vehicles... to slowly drive through the parking lot of the Civic Center, one of... nine voting centers" in Maryland's Wicomico County on Tuesday around 3:15 p.m., when "he thinks the site will be most heavily crowded with voters."
"I'm going to let everybody know that Biden's not the way to go," he added. While "election officials have asked him to change the route," Mark F. hadn't decided as of Monday afternoon whether to comply, insisting to reporters that "Trump supporters had the right to be on county property making a last-minute appeal to voters."
The recent spate of reckless and threatening situations driven by pro-Trump motorists, however, demonstrates that these right-wing convoys engaged in "aggressive displays of support for the president," as HuffPost put it, are not trying to make peaceful appeals to undecided voters.
On the contrary, the intimidating vehicular rallies are meant to remind people "that traditional American values matter," according to "MAGA Drag the Interstate," an alleged "grassroots assemblage of patriots" responsible for coordinating events online "to stand up and take our Country back!"
According to HuffPost, "at least 18 of the listed event organizers in 14 states have openly supported the far-right conspiracy theory known as QAnon on social media." Moreover, several of the so-called "rolling rallies" appear "to have targeted voting centers and racially diverse neighborhoods, actions that are" consistent with the pattern of voter suppression encouraged by the president.
"The presence of QAnon-affiliated organizers raises the specter of violence," HuffPost reported on Monday. "In the past two years, bombing plots, kidnapping schemes, car chases, and a murder" have been linked to extremist adherents of the right-wing conspiracy theory.
The news outlet summarized recent assaults on democracy by "Trump Train" caravans:
One convoy drove through Marin City, California, the only part of Marin County where white residents are in the minority, and shouted racial epithets at children. Another in Fort Worth, Texas cruised through a polling station in a predominantly Black neighborhood, provoking an altercation with residents. In Temecula, California, a caravan blocked access to a voting center. A group in New York shut down the Mario Cuomo bridge. In Louisville, Kentucky, a "Trump Train" member directed traffic with a gun at a high school. And in Texas, near Austin, trucks adorned with "Make America great again" flags swarmed a Joe Biden campaign bus in an incident that is now under FBI investigation.
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As Common Dreams reported on Monday, Trump condoned his truck-driving supporters' violent attack on a Biden campaign bus near Austin, Texas, tweeting: "In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong."
Although Biden was forced to cancel multiple Texas events following the incident, the chairman of the state's Republican Party dismissed coverage of the menacing event as "more fake news and propaganda." Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told the crowd at a Trump reelection campaign rally: "We love what they did."
Fox News host Jeanine Pirro heaped more praise on the pro-Trump convoys' dangerous and disruptive stunt in Texas, describing it as "ordinary Americans just taking this election into their own hands."
"The Austin thing shows that it's not noise," Greenberger said of election security experts' concerns about the negative consequences stemming from "Trump Train" rallies, especially those planned to take place on the country's last day of voting.
According to Reuters, the organizers with whom they spoke on Monday "stressed that they condemn what happened in Texas."
Greenberger said that "having the FBI saying they're looking at Austin may cause some people, not everyone, to think twice about interference."
While public posts on social media suggest that roughly a dozen "Trump Train" convoys are planned for Election Day, experts noted that "more are likely to be organized through private groups."
As HuffPost reported:
Facebook has long been a key platform for far-right extremists to coordinate their efforts... Despite pledging "to remove coordinated efforts to intimidate voters... the social media giant's enforcement has been inconsistent, and events that can be used to coordinate political violence or voter intimidation can evade Facebook’s moderators by refraining from explicitly discussing those plans on the platform.
HuffPost noted that "Facebook announced on Monday night that its Election Operation Center would be tracking content related to voter suppression, as well as other issues including 'the potentially dangerous activity we saw with the swarming of Biden campaign buses this weekend.'"
However, the news outlet continued, "at the time of its statement, pages connected to the MAGA Drag the Interstate operation remained active."