In an effort to preempt violence, officials in Washington, D.C. on Monday warned potential attendees of Wednesday's so-called #StopTheSteal rally and related events scheduled for this week that armed protesters will be arrested by city police officers, with the assistance of 300 unarmed National Guard members who have been activated to help contain the protests.
There is "a serious threat to our democracy right now... and violence is being incited," said Muriel Bowser, the mayor of D.C., which prohibits the open carry of firearms.
"Trump has conned a dangerously large number of Americans into believing there was major election fraud."
—Steven Greenhouse, journalist
Bowser encouraged people to avoid downtown this week, and anyone "looking for a fight," especially. "We will not allow people to incite violence, intimidate residents, or cause destruction in our city," the mayor said.
Since Election Day, President Donald Trump has tried to delegitimize President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election by making unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Trump has also tried to intimidate officials into reversing electoral outcomes in at least one state.
Trump's coup attempt has been bolstered by the refusal of dozens of Republican lawmakers to accept the legitimacy of Biden's victory, and the outgoing president's most avid supporters across the country have likewise marched on state capitol buildings and the Supreme Court in an effort to persuade lawmakers to overturn the results.
Having been rebuked by even his own hand-picked right-wing judges throughout the federal courts and with Congress—minus about a dozen pro-Trump senators and several dozen far-right representatives—set to certify Biden's Electoral College win on Wednesday, the president has called on his followers to descend on the nation's capitol this week to protest the results in what Politico called "MAGA's final stand."
"Trump has conned a dangerously large number of Americans into believing there was major election fraud," said journalist Steven Greenhouse.
The president tweeted Sunday that he will be attending the anti-democracy protests in D.C. The Proud Boys, a neo-fascist hate group that Trump refused to disavow during a presidential debate last September, are expected to be there, too, just one month after vandalizing Black churches and clashing with anti-fascist demonstrators in D.C. at another rally endorsed by the White House.
The Proud Boys are reportedly planning to wear all-black gear this time in an attempt to blend in with, and possibly misattribute blame for violence to, anti-fascists who typically wear all-black clothing.
"We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown D.C. in smaller teams," Proud Boys' chairman Enrique Tarrio announced on Parler, The Hill reported Saturday.
Anticipating the heightened risk for conflict this week, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee III provided the following warning on Monday: "Firearms are not permitted."
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This is some of the most aggressive “no guns!” messaging I’ve seen around a #DC protest — the mayor has repeatedly said as much, the police chief emphasized anyone breaking the law will be arrested. Seems to be real concern about folks bringing guns into the District this week https://t.co/QpMmjFDlSn— Marissa J. Lang (@Marissa_Jae) January 4, 2021
Alluding to information about "individuals intent on bringing firearms into our city," Contee stressed "that just will not be tolerated."
NEW: DC Police chief at a briefing with Mayor Bowser on Jan. 5-6 protests:— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) January 4, 2021
"We have received some information that there are individuals intent on bringing firearms into our city. That just will not be tolerated."
In response to Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who stated that she intends to "carry my Glock" to the Capitol, Contee reiterated that there are "no exceptions" to the city's gun laws. "That congresswoman will be subjected to the same penalties as anyone else that's caught on the D.C. streets carrying a firearm," he said.
D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee warns there are "no exceptions" to the city's gun laws, and that Boebert is subject to the same penalties as everyone else.— Michael Brice-Saddler (@TheArtist_MBS) January 4, 2021
City plans to reach out to her office to remind her of restrictions. https://t.co/3CJXvrrOSg
While a hotel popular among the Proud Boys will be closed temporarily to deter violence, room rates at Trump's hotel in D.C. are reportedly surging.
"Americans need to see through this huge con," said Greenhouse. "Judge after judge has ruled against Trump's claims of fraud. Trump needs to stop dividing the nation and admit the truth: he lost."
In an apparent reflection of the seriousness of the president's threats to democracy in the U.S., all 10 living former defense secretaries—including former Trump officials James Mattis and Mark Esper—on Sunday penned an op-ed rebuking Trump for obstructing a peaceful transfer of power.
Urging Trump to accept his defeat and cautioning the president against invoking martial law, the ex-Pentagon chiefs wrote that "efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful, and unconstitutional territory."
"Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures," they added, "would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic."