WASHINGTON • Incensed by a Supreme Court ruling that further dashed President Donald Trump’s hopes of invalidating his November electoral defeat, thousands of his supporters marched in Washington and several state capitals to protest against what they contended, against all evidence, was a stolen election.
In some places, angry confrontations between protesters and counter-protesters over the weekend escalated into violence. There were a number of scuffles in the national capital, and the police declared a riot in Olympia, Washington, where one person was shot.
Police moved in to separate duelling protesters, using pepper spray on members of both sides.
The court’s action clears the way for the Electoral College to meet in 50 states and the District of Columbia today, leaving no further path for Mr Trump to challenge the election outcome. The Electoral College is set to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
In videos of a clash in Olympia that were posted on social media, a single gunshot can be heard as black-clad counter-protesters move towards members of the pro-Trump group, including one person waving a large Trump flag.
After the gunshot, one of the counter-protesters 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 donning a red hat.
Washington State Patrol spokesman Chris Loftis said one person was in custody in connection with the episode, but that details about the shooting were not yet clear, including the condition of the person who was shot.
After dark fell on Saturday, the protesters – including members of the aggressive far-left anti-facism movement – splintered into smaller groups to roam the streets in search of their rivals.
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 last 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 Jan 20, 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 recognise Mr Biden.
Mr Trump flew over the protesters in Marine One on his way to attend the Army-Navy football game at West Point. Protesters erupted in cheers as the helicopter and its escort passed overhead.
“Wow! 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 President tweeted.
At Georgia’s Statehouse in Atlanta, speakers used megaphones to cast doubt on the election as US flags and Make America Great Again hats bobbed in the crowd.
Across the street, a few dozen anti-Trump activists – many dressed all in black – heckled the President’s supporters.
Mr Chris Hill, the leader of a right-wing group called the Georgia Security Force III per cent, had rallied many of the protesters to the Statehouse. He said the Supreme Court had “thumbed its nose at us”.
But unlike many others in attendance, he said he accepted that Mr Trump had lost the election. “At this point, this thing is over.”
Some demonstrators were more confident than others about how Mr Trump could secure a second term despite losing the vote.
Ms Phyllis Monson, 61, who drove for several days from Tonopah, Arizona, to attend the rally, said she was not sure what steps remained available to overturn the election’s result, but that she was convinced it had been unfair. “This election was such a fraud,” she said. “There needs to be a revote.”
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